Byther Farm Gardening Podcast – Rob’s Allotment

Byther Farm Gardening Podcast – Rob’s Allotment grower Rob Smith. Season 2 Episode 3. Show notes.

Rob is a veg grower and garden writer. He was the winner of BBC Two’s The Big Allotment Challenge and his book, Grow to Eat: Growing Colourful And Tasty Vegetables From Seed, published by Quadrille, is published in March 2024.

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Buy Rob’s book Grow to Eat by Rob Smith

Grow to Eat by Rob Smith, published by DK

Website RobsAllotment

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Transcript of this podcast Rob Smith episode and full our conversation is available below.

Liz Zorab and Rob Smith at Garden Media Guild Awards 2023

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Byther Farm Gardening Podcast Transcript – Rob Smith

This episode was made possible through the generosity of our supporters on Patreon. If you’d like to see videos and hear podcasts before everyone else, become a supporter of Liz Zorab on Patreon to support our work here at Byther Farm.

Welcome back to the Byther Farm podcast and this week I have with me a wonderful gardener, a wonderful garden writer and author, it’s Rob Smith. Rob, thank you so much for joining me today.

Rob – You’re very welcome, how are you?

I’m good and you?

Yeah, good. Cold!

It is cold, so we’re recording this in the middle of January and we’re going through a seriously nippy spell, a cold snap.

Rob – Yeah I think I had to snap the dog off a lamppost this morning if it was that cold.

Liz – It was, yeah, it has been, it has been, I’m not going to say unfamiliarly cold or unusually cold because we do get cold spells like this every year, but every year I’m always taken by surprise.

Rob – Yeah it always catches you out. And you wake up in the morning and you think, is that snow? And it’s not. It’s actually just a really hard frost. And it’s freezing.

Yes. Yeah, absolutely. So have you had any snow this year?

Rob – No. Well, a tiny bit. I wouldn’t class it as snow. I think the weathermen would have made a big deal of it, saying that, oh, it was snowed in and everything. It’s about a millimetre, to be honest. It was one of those where you can’t tell if it’s snow or frost.

Last night as we were going to bed we checked the weather forecast and it said 0.4 of a millimetre of snow. Exactly. And I thought actually are snowflakes that small? How do they get to land and stretch out really flat?

Well I was saying the other day, I put something on Instagram the other day, because it was so warm and I said, you know what, we need a good cold spell because I want some of these pests in the garden to get knocked out so I’ve not got them next year. And then the next day it did this and the lady sent a message going, yeah be careful what you wish for. Never happy.

Liz – So for people who don’t know you, because there will be people listening from all over the world. Rob, do you want to tell or to remind me and tell everybody else a little bit about who you are in terms of being a gardener and where they can find what you’re doing and just a little potted history.

Rob – Yeah, do you want me to start off from the beginning?

Liz – Wherever you want to start, yes.

Basically, I’ve always been into gardening, always been into growing my own because I used to spend a lot of time when my mum and dad were working with my grandparents and my granddad used to have, you know, these old council houses with the huge gardens at the back and that was all like vegetables with a rickety old greenhouse, a dolly tub full of water, a little shed and everything, absolutely like perfect.

And he used to do that and my grandma used to do the flowers. She used to have climbing roses up the side of the house and all the stuff like that. So I used to spend a lot of time with them. And he had a brick-built shed that I used to be amazed by because back then you’d go in and he’d have shelves and like strings with little paper bags folded up on them,

brown paper bags. And I used to think they were sweet because we used to go and get a 10p mix when you were a kid. But he used to pull them down and open them up and they were all his seeds. So he used to save his own seeds and they were hung up so that the mice couldn’t get to them.

And I was amazed by the fact, I always remember it was beetroot and I always remember the beetroot seeds thinking, how is that stone going to grow into a beetroot? Because they just do look like little pebbles almost, like bits of grit. And as a kid it was amazing. So he started me off with that by giving me the seeds and getting me to sow and helping him in the garden, basically slave labour, which you get reported for now, but back then it was

called experience. So yeah, he used to get me to do that. And then my mum and dad gave me a tiny bit of land down the side of the house. Basically, down the side of the house, there’s a path, and there’s a bit of strip of land down the side of there, and we are talking a metre wide. Yeah. It was probably a metre wide and two metres long, and they let me plant anything there because no one could see it. So I was growing every meal for about, it must have been six months, we had radishes because they were the quickest thing to grow. So as a kid it was like giving radish, giving radish. That started me off. Then I went to university.

Do you still eat radishes?

I love radishes. I absolutely love radishes. Yeah, they didn’t put me off. It wasn’t like the tequila that I had when I was about 18. That put me off for life.

And we all had one of those. Yeah, mine was vodka.

So, yeah, I did that. Then went to university, and basically, the only thing I grew there were chilies. So we had a communal kitchen, and I just grew a few tiny little chili plants on the windowsill. And when you’re at university, you’ve got other things on your mind than growing. It’s just one of those things you do as a kid.

What did you study at university?

I did law.


So I went to do law, a bit different to what I do now. So yeah, so did that, and then left there, decided it wasn’t for me after about a year and a half. Really didn’t enjoy it. And at the time, my auntie’s sister-in-law was working for Virgin Atlantic flying, up from Manchester. And she said, we’re looking for people to fly. So I thought, well, do you know what? I’ve left university. I don’t know what I want to do. I’ll go and do that for six months, see the world, get paid, but go on holiday, as you imagine it to be. So I did that for 20 years. So yeah, but in the meantime, I’ve moved back from down south up to Sheffield and I’ve got a flat and it’s a first floor flat, so obviously I’ve got no growing space.

And it got to a phase where if you’ve always grown and then you’re not able to, it’s like this itch that you can’t scratch. And it got so overwhelming, it was making me like just depressed that I couldn’t do anything. So in the end, I thought, you know what, it was back when River Cottage had just come out, you know, with Hugh Fenwitty and Storm. And I thought, I’ll get an allotment. So back then, oh my God, I could have got about 10 allotments like on the day, whereas now there’s a waiting list. And I remember going down to the allotment sites with the local councillor and it was just almost like a field, all the allotments, half of them were used and the bottom half weren’t.

So to keep them under control they’d let the farmer use it for planting potatoes on so it didn’t get overrun. So they carved me off a bit, used a six foot cane and carved me off a bit of this land, put a string down it and he went there you go it’s yours. And I was like shit what do I do now? Do you know what I mean? He’s just taken all the potatoes out of it, it looks like a mud pit, it’s raining, I don’t have, I don’t even own a fork or a spade, what do I do?

So that started and unfortunately it’s not here anymore, but Wilkos, the allotmenteer’s best friend, did me really well for all of us, spaded everything until he like wore out basically. And then got my second allotment, got my polytunnel, and then I was away one day in LA with work. And I’d had a few gin and tonics, shall we say,

and I was online, and this thing came up on Twitter saying, do you grow your own veg? Do you cook with it? What do you preserve with it? Do you do flour arranging? And I thought, wow, if flour arranging is bunging a few daffodils in a jam jar and shoving them on the kitchen table because they’re growing down the side of the allotment, yes, I do.

And I used to make jams and chutneys and all the rest of it and different spirits infused with fruits and stuff from the allotment. I used to love all that. So I applied, a little pie-eyed, shall we say, worse for wear. And then the next morning, woke up and there was an email going, oh, yeah, blah, blah, blah, we’d love you to come down. I thought this was like an interview thing for a magazine. And it wasn’t, it was for a TV program through this agency. And that was the big allotment challenge on BBC Two. So basically did that thought, oh God, what am I going to do?

Went down to London. It was amazing. Went down. It was just by the British Museum. So I had a day out in London and went to this interview. And I was there with a few other people at the time, probably about 15 others. 15 of us. And they went through some questions, just basic things like, what’s the main problem for broad beans and stuff like that. And I was like, oh, black fly, blah, blah, blah,

talk about it. And I said, can I ask why you’re asking me this before we’ve gone in? And she said, because she’d be so surprised how many people just want to be on TV and know nothing about gardening. So we have to whittle them out before they go through.

Liz – That’s really nice.

Rob – Yeah, to make actually sure it’s not just somebody who’s been on like 10 other programs and just wants to be famous on TV. So they got me to take down photos of the allotment and stuff like that, and things that I’ve made, so raspberry jam and all these bits and bobs. And they went through loads of different vegetables and how do you grow it, what do

you do, what are the problems, what are the benefits, what can you use them for, so all that type of stuff. With this horticultural advisor, Louise, who was really lovely. And then they tasted all the jams and everything. And then you’re doing all this with a microphone on. So if you’ve never been on TV or anything like that, it’s really weird to have this microphone on. And you’re almost like trying to think about what you’re saying before you do it.

And then they said, right, we want you to do the flow arranging. I thought, oh, bo—ks, I’ve got no chance at this. So I’ve got, you can’t say, because you’ve got a microphone, I’m thinking I can’t even like do a slight burp under my breath or anything because they’re going to hear everything. So I went into this room and they brought out the camera and the camera’s pointing at you and they’re like right okay, you’ve got five minutes, go. Started a stopwatch, that was it.

And I’m like, so I looked for the biggest thing that looked like a jam jar, looked for the biggest thing that looked like daffodils, round them in with a bit of twine round them. And they’re going, just stop. Can you tell us what you’re doing? I’m like, well, no, because I’m doing it. And she went, no, you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to think about what you’re doing, do it,

and tell us what you’re doing, otherwise it’s going to be quite a boring TV program, Rob, because you’re not telling us. So that was an experience and thought, ah, do you know what? I’ve got no chance, came out thinking, well, it was a good experience. It was a nice day out in London for someone from up in Yorkshire. They’ve paid for it. Well done, Rob. You’ve had a day out for free.

And they said, yeah, you’ll hear from us in a few weeks. And I thought, oh, that’s it. That’s a no. So I got on the train on the way back, and the phone rang. And they said, basically, they’d whittled however many, I think it was about 500 people, they whittled it down to 14 that they’d got for the show and nine would go on TV.

So they’ve got five like standbys in case anyone drops out and they said we’ve whittled you down to the 14. Can we have another interview? And I was like yeah fine. I had another one and they said yeah we want you as one of the nine. So can you come down to London next week? I was like no I’m in New York. Can you come the day after? I was like well actually I think I’m going to San Francisco the day after I get back. And she’s like, oh my god. So, yeah, so work were really good. They gave me the

set time off and I worked in between, which was really good. Did that, absolutely loved that, really, really enjoyed it. And then it sort of like went from there. I won that back in…

Liz – Go back, say that again…. Just say that really loudly. I won that.

Oh yeah, I won that. Which is amazing when you think about it, when like you’ve gone down from however many hundreds to the ones on TV and then you’ve done everything and it was absolutely amazing. Brilliant experience.

Liz – So you made some good friends on that.

Rob – Yes, I did. Yeah.

Liz – Are you still in touch with any of them?

Rob – Yeah, Rekka. Yeah, Rekka. I know Tony works for, it’s Kitchen Garden magazine and everything now. So yeah, I keep in contact with a few of them still.

That’s really nice, isn’t it?

Rob – It is lovely. Yeah, it is lovely. But yeah, that happened. And then basically I was at the, there was a showdown in London that, the, what’s it called? Not Garden Media Guild, the other one.

Garden Press event, yeah.

Garden Press event. And it used to be at another place, not the one it is now. And I remember going down, chatting to this guy, and didn’t have a clue who he was. I was just down there, like, amazed by everyone, because I’ve never been in the industry. Just chatting to this guy. And he said, oh, would you be interested in, like, working with us? I said, yeah, yeah, fine, whatever, just give me a card. And he was the owner of Sutton Seeds. Didn’t have a clue who he was.


So I started working with them 10 years ago and then ended up being quite fortuitous because Virgin offered my rank redundancy, voluntary redundancy, which allowed me to buy the house and garden we’re in now, put a deposit down on that to actually have a nice bit of land, which really worked. And then, yeah, I’ve been working with Suttons and a few other brands for the last, what, eight years, nine years now, whatever it is.

That’s fantastic. So when I first met you, was at one of those events, at that press event in 2020, which is the first one I went to.

Rob – Oh, was it the one just after COVID?

Liz – No, just before COVID. So it was like immediately. And we were all kind of going, walking around going, do we shake hands? Do we not shake hands?

Oh, yes. I remember.

We were all doing the elbow bump. We were all doing the elbows. How close can we get or not? None of us kind of knew what was happening. We just knew there was stuff happening, like in China, and it was spreading.

And maybe it had got as far as Italy, and we were going, oh.

Rob – And it started snowing, didn’t it? It was really snowing that time, wasn’t it? And people were worried about getting home on the train.

Liz – Yeah, I know, I left really early, because I’m never going to get home to Wales otherwise. So yeah, so I met you there and you know that was really lovely and I’ve met you, I’ve bumped into a few other ‘dos’ since then.

I think you’ll find me, we were actually having drinks a few months ago in a pub in London.

Liz – Not very long ago was it? Yeah, so we both go to the, to the Garden Media Guild Awards each year which is an absolutely amazing event isn’t it?

Rob – Yeah, it is good. It’s so nice to be surrounded by so many people that just love gardening. It must be for anyone who doesn’t, it must be the weirdest thing to walk into that room and just think, what are they on about?

Liz – Not only what are they on about, but like everybody seems to know everybody. Yeah. I kind of went and spoke to people and to say congratulations for winning their award today. Oh, Liz, thank you so much. And I walked away thinking, how do they know who I am? You know.

Rob – Yeah the power of social media.

Yeah is amazing isn’t it? So you mentioned that you are on you’re on Instagram, your Instagram account is beautiful by the way to look at.

Rob – Thank you very much.

Liz – Beautiful colours, so much absolutely beautiful veg, beautiful. So one of the things I wanted to ask you and like a quick fire but not really go with it as much as you want to.
Ornamentals or productive? Which is your first love?

Productive. Productive. Definitely. I think you’ve got to, yeah, if you can’t eat it, it’s nice to look at, there’s no point wasting your time on it.

Liz – Yeah, oh, I get that, yes. So I was an ornamental gardener for about 35 years. I might be a bit older than you, Rob. And then have been moved slowly over to productive gardening,
but still put masses and masses of ornamental stuff in my productive garden.

Yeah, I do put a lot in the borders. So because my garden is tiered, because it’s on a quite big slope, it’s got three big tiers, but the banks in between, apart from artichokes and things, which I eat a few of, but they are quite ornamental, I do like to put a lot of flowering plants there, just to increase biodiversity and bring the bugs in, to be honest. It’s not like it’s one of these old-fashioned allotments, where in the winter it’s just wiped clean and it’s brown for three months and nothing happens.

There are definitely ornamentals there. Because it’s my back garden, I want it to look nice. I want to look at the house and it to look nice. I don’t want it to look like a barren field. But yeah, my first love is definitely, you’ve got to be able to eat it. It’s nice to be in the garden if it looks nice, but to earn a place, you’ve got to be able to eat it.

So I thought I’d have a nose around your website and it very much reflects that whole really enjoying what you grow. Yeah. It just oozes, I’m enjoying this and I want you to enjoy it as well. So it’s when you visit your website, it’s really exciting just to kind of feel you become even more immersed in Rob’s world of veg.

Yes, I do, I do, I just love it. The best days are when it’s nice and dry, not too sunny, the dogs are in the garden, you’re pottering around, you’ve had a really productive day, you walk in with armfuls or baskets full of stuff and then you think, you know what, I’ve grown all that from those tiny little pebbles that I used to see in my granddad’s, I’ve grown that. And then you suddenly realise, oh crap, I’ve got to spend all day tomorrow processing all this cleaning it, bottling it and freezing it.

Yeah, I did that half way and you’ve got the other half to go.


So one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you Rob is that you have a book coming out and I have been lucky enough to see an advance copy of it.

Rob – What did you think?

Liz – What a beautiful book. What a, I drew breath several times, I kind of went, oh, look at that photograph.

Rob – I know, aren’t the photos amazing?

Liz – Photos are beautiful and everything in it is your voice so when I’m reading I can absolutely hear you saying the words and I think that’s so important in a book. So well done because that’s such an achievement. So how long did that take you to write because it’s a good book?

The writing side about three months, not solid, like on and off. But the photos, were, because what I wanted to do is, when I was talking to the editor and everything, my editor, and when I met Sam, the photographer, I said, look, I want everything to be taken in the garden. I want everything to be stuff that I’ve grown, no matter what, if it looks bad, like the good, the bad, the ugly, because I don’t want it to be Photoshop. I want it to all look the same. And I said I want the photos to look like when you see these beautiful books that have got all the flower arranging and the ornamentals

and they look stunning. I said vegetables to me are that good looking and I need them to look that good in the book. And I think Sam pulled it off absolutely amazingly with how he’s done the photos and how the guys at Quadrille have done all the editing and everything else. And there are some things in there that aren’t, say, the best that they could be. Like, I remember when we took the photos of the cauliflowers, one of them looks like it’s just, not blown, but just going because I was trying to get all those cauliflowers ready for a set day

when the photographer’s coming and you’re thinking, can he come two days earlier? No, he can’t. And you’re thinking, what do I do? So it was having a photographer come like every month or every three weeks from March to October. And you had to get everything ready. So not only are you trying to do your work life, your personal life, the growing like I normally do. And normally, you know what it’s like, you think, oh, that cauliflower’s ready. We’ll have cauliflower tonight. So I was thinking, oh, that cauliflower’s ready. Brilliant. Photographer’s not coming for three days. Do you know, so you’re thinking, the stress of that was absolutely unbelievable. I didn’t think it was it would be so much stress-wise.

Liz – And it was a difficult growing year last year, wasn’t it?

It was really dry, yeah. It was really dry. And it was like, it was a cold to start with. Like, I remember some of the tomatoes thinking they look alright but they haven’t got as much taste as they did last year just because they weren’t getting the sun and it was a bit dull.

Liz – So you’re in Sheffield aren’t you and you’re saying you had quite a dry year last year?

Rob – Dry to start off with the end of spring just getting everything started yeah.

Liz -Yeah so that was dry and cold. Then we had that really hot spell. So June was a heatwave here. Was it was it very hot for you?

Rob – It was quite warm.

Liz – Yeah, things were going, they were not growing because they couldn’t get any water. And then from July the 1st, it rained until the snow came this week.

Rob – It has been a weird year. And we say that every year though, don’t we? Because the year before it was hot, the year before it might have

rained for god knows how long or spring seems to have started in February and then suddenly stopped in April because it went down to minus five or something.

Liz – Do you think this is a symptomatic of gardeners that we blame the weather for that year?

Rob – Yeah we’re never happy are we? But it still amazes me that you can grow, if you want to grow the same variety, you can grow the same variety, you can sow it the same day, look after it the same, and it’s never the same. There’s always something, there’s always something, and it’s the weather. It’s nothing to do with our imperfections and the fact that we forgot to water it for three days in a row, nothing to do with us at all.

Liz – So you’ve written your book, when’s it out?

Rob – It comes out in the UK, it’s out, I think it’s 21st of March. In the US, 26th of March. And Australia is early April.


Yeah, it should be good. But I just wanted something that, I’ve thought about it for a while. And I’ve always loved growing, I always love growing something a little bit different. I always think it’s got to be familiar, but not the same. So if it’s tomatoes, why does everybody want to grow standard salad size red tomatoes? That’s fine if you love them, grow them, but just change one plant to something else, change one to

one with the anthocyanin in that tastes more umami or the sweeter little tiny ones or just something a little bit different. So that’s what I tried to get over in the book, that there are so many vegetables. If you grow from seed, there’s so many varieties and different things to grow that you can’t buy in the shops. You don’t even see it in the farm shops. So you’ve got to grow it yourself. But that’s where a lot of people struggle because they don’t know the varieties. They don’t know what they’re looking for. They don’t know how to grow them. And that’s what I wanted to try and get over there. So like when you flick through the book.

I was looking at one of them, you recommended three or four varieties and I thought I’ve actually never heard of any of those because I go for kind of, you know, I wouldn’t say bog standard ones, but I go for ones that I grew 20 years ago and so I just know what they are so I grow them every year.

And that’s absolutely fine but it’s like if you grow three just grow two next year and grow one that’s a bit different because you’ll be really surprised at what’s out there and what’s available.

Liz – Well it’s a bit like when all of a sudden Romanesco cauliflower were available in the shops and everyone’s going it’s an alien what is it?

Rob – Yeah I just find it bizarre and there are things that we see almost like as say as gardeners or allotmenteers or like veg growers that we always think are normal. But to be honest, how often now do you see things like runner beans in the shops? You might see a few of them, you don’t see a lot like you used to. You see, like, if you grow your own veg and you grow courgettes, people always go,

I’m only growing five plants. Is that enough? I’m like, what, for the street? Because they grow like weeds. But you go to the supermarket, they’re charging like two or three quid for three tiny little courgettes.

Liz – Yeah.

Rob – And you just think it’s almost become detached from what we can grow and what is normal to grow to what the supermarkets actually sell. Because you don’t see it there, you don’t think you can grow it here. Yeah. And you can.

Liz – One of the things I grow an awful lot of is fruit because it is so expensive in the stores. So I grow a ridiculous number of raspberries, you know, and I let my raspberry patch get far too big, you know, because those are hugely expensive in stores.

Rob – Yeah, soft fruit.

Liz – Soft fruit. And the last couple of years I’ve been growing peaches.

Rob – Ah, are you having any success? Can you keep them covered?

Liz – Oh, so I’ve got them in a polytunnel and success doesn’t really explain it. We got to the point where we went, I can’t face another a peach. We’d given all the neighbours and they’d all gone, yeah, we don’t need any more peaches this week. And I ended up making like a mango chutney, but instead of a mango chutney, I made peach chutney because we just had so many of them and that was from two trees.

Yeah, because I’ve got a couple outside and I try and cover them in polythene in the spring and they still get a bit of like peach leaf curl and they’re alright, they’re mini ones, they do okay, shall we say, but I haven’t got space in the greenhouse for them. So it’s a case of do I sacrifice something that stays in there all year and just crops them once or do I try and play around with the other things that I’m always fiddling about with. I’ve got a pawpaw in there at the minute.

Oh, nice.

Yeah, and I’ve even got one outside in the garden that’s surviving because until I looked into it I didn’t realise they grow wild in New York. So look how cold it gets in New York and they love like a foggy stream or anywhere that’s like really damp. So yeah, I’ve got a couple of those and they’re amazing.

Liz – I’m making a note here. No, literally because we have, we have a very damp environment.

Rob – That’s why part of our garden is really damp because we’ve got an underground stream that comes to the surface. So I’ve planted quince and pawpaw there and they love it. The quince, oh my god, I had to prop the tree up this year because it was going to destroy itself. It would produce so much fruit.

I know about quince, but there’ll be people listening who don’t know about quince. So do you want to share a little bit?

Quince is probably one of the most underrated fruits you could ever grow. Depending on which variety you go for, they can look round like an apple or pear-shaped like a pear, funnily enough. But they’re normally yellow, and they almost have fuzzy skin, like fuzz on the leaf, and on the fruit. And basically, they’re like rocks. In this country, they’re normally from Iran, Iraq, places like that, where they ripen

on the tree and you can eat them. But in the UK, in our climate, we don’t have a long enough growing season, so they stay rock hard. You can’t eat them. They’re really astringent, and I’m not selling it very well at all. But as soon as you add heat or cook them, they become the most luscious, beautifully tasty.

They go like this orangey, almost rosy, translucent flesh, which is so sweet and fragrant and delicious. If you cook with apples at all, if you want it to taste better you put one quince in with anything you do with apple and it will elevate whatever you’re cooking to like, oh, heavenly.

Liz – I always think of the taste as almost perfumey.

Rob – Yeah, it’s really fragrant, isn’t it? And if you pick them, and I leave them in a bowl in the kitchen and you come back in the house smells amazing.

They’re like this natural glade plug-in type thing. They smell beautiful, but I use them now instead of making applesauce and canning it to go with pork and things like that, I actually make just quince sauce and it’s beautiful, even for like in the morning, get a bowl of yogurt or porridge and put some of that in, absolutely stunning. So yeah, one of my favourite things.

When we meet up, maybe like next month, if you’ve got a small jar, a small like little tiny sample of your quince.


Oh I’ve got some jars, yeah. Yeah, the quince sauce is amazing. You can actually make it into, I can’t say, is it membrilio as well? We call it quince cheese. So like you boil it up and it almost forms this paste that you see in Spain or France where they have it with the cheese, the brown like jelly.

I made it for the first time this year. It’s a really long process, so I split it over two days bubbling it away. I must say you need one of the, you know the spatter guards for a frying pan, to stop the fat going anywhere. I had to put one of those over the top because it was volcanic. And I literally had to go and change my top and put long sleeves on because all you could hear was expletives coming from the kitchen, it’s a bit bubbled onto my skin and you’re trying to wipe it off, yeah it’s that molten quince, but yeah absolutely beautiful.

Oh nice, that sounds really nice. Do you grow or do you collect rose hips for making? Do you use rose hips in your kitchen?

Rob – No, do you know what, I don’t but I should because at the very back of our garden we have this huge wild rose that produces loads of them and they’re always dropping into the gutter of the greenhouse and I’ve never, I think I did, I might have years ago, are they the ones that taste a bit like coconut if you make them into syrups and stuff?

Yeah very slightly, yeah maybe that’s because I just think it just has this one sort of non-descript fruit-ish I make rosehip syrup, rosehip wine and I even make rosehip jelly.

Oh do you? What to go with, like with cheese or for meats?

Yeah, cheese and meats, yep. I love it. And toast. I’ll eat jellies with almost anything. So I use a lot of them. Yeah. I think it’s another one of those things that so many people have in their gardens and they’re completely underrated.

Rob – Yeah, and they just don’t know. Yeah. Yeah. It is quite scary about how many things there are like that.

We’ve got on the boundary to the garden, we’ve got loads of elderflowers. And I make, have you ever heard of Pontac? It’s the sauce made with the fruits. It’s absolutely brilliant. So basically, don’t use all the elderflowers. Leave them to go into berries. Then fight with the blackbirds to get to them first. And then basically what you do is in a low oven, just put a couple of chopped up shallots, spices, like allspice and cloves and things like that, and all the berries, and then you cover them in vinegar. So I use apple cider vinegar, and you put them in a really, really low oven overnight. And when it comes out, mash it with a potato masher, put it through a strainer to get this

sauce and you get this most darkest, almost jet black, but it’s dark purple, luscious sauce and you just leave it. You’re supposed to leave it for seven years. You’ve got no chance. You can’t even leave it for seven months. And it forms this sauce that if you add it to gravies or soups or sauces, it’s almost like a cross between Worcester sauce and HP sauce flavour.

Liz – Oh nice.

Really herby, really deep. So anything to go with like gamey meats or darker meats or gravies, it’s beautiful. And it makes, and it lasts for years and years, and it’s absolutely divine. Yeah, Pontac.

I am going to be giving that a go, very definitely, because we do have, we have plenty of elderberries here. I make a vast amount of elderberry wine. You’ll see there’s a theme.
I make wine out of a lot of things.

Rob – I just thinking, hang on, I think we’ll go with it, wine?

I need to just add, I don’t drink any of the wine.

Rob – Oh, do you not?

Liz – No, but I cook with it.

Rob – Ah, that’s why.

Liz – So I use wine to add flavour into it, the alcohol’s cooked out, but we’ve got all those flavours.

So you’re like Barbara off for good life when she used to do the Peapod, what is it, the Peapod Burgundy.

Oh something like that, it was an awful, awful idea. But elderberry wine ends up like a really good Merlot.

Oh does it? Really dark and deep?

Yes, really, really rich. So yeah, very nice. I’m told.

Yeah, well you can taste it but you don’t get the, yeah, yeah.

Yeah, so I will taste it just to check it isn’t off, but then actually Mr J, my husband, drinks wine. I don’t, I just, I don’t cook it into everything.

If it did go off, couldn’t you make it into your own elderberry vinegar?

Liz – Yes, there’s a thought.

Rob – You could get some of the live apple cider vinegar, take a bit of mother out of it and just drop it in and there you go.

Liz – Oh, that would be nice. That would be lovely on salads and everything.

Rob –  It would.

I really like that.

Right, Rob, we are absolutely running out of time for this chat. I would like to do this again so we can do another day of recipes from.

Rob – We’ll do recipes and wine.

Thank you so much for joining me.

Rob – You’re welcome.

And I will see you next month in London. Next month. Yeah.


0:35:02 The podcast you’ve been listening to is a Byther Farm production. All rights reserved.

Liz Zorab
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