The Lost Orchard, by Raymond Blanc, book review
Head gardener at Gravetye Manor Tom Coward reviews Raymond Blanc's beautiful book which shows the thought, passion and heritage behind one of the most magnificent fruit plantings of recent times
The Lost Orchard: a celebration of our heritage through stories of fruit and their recipes
by Raymond Blanc
The first time I saw the orchard at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons was about a year after the first plantings had gone in. I was struck by the imagination and ambition behind the project and excited to see how it would develop. Hundreds of apple varieties were carefully tasted and studied before around 150 British cultivars were selected for planting. Later about 600
trees were added, representing flavours from France. Numerous pear, quince, fig, medlar and stone fruit varieties have also been incorporated, and are still being studied for their performance. Today the 2,500 trees that make up the orchard stand as one of the most interesting and beautiful fruit collections in the country.
In this beautiful book, Raymond Blanc, with his customary charm, tells the stories behind his orchard. He discusses a selection of his favourite fruit varieties as though they were old friends, delving into their near-forgotten heritage. Most usefully, he shares the results of his studies, detailing their assets and shortfalls both in the garden and the kitchen. Interspersed through the book are chapters showing his philosophy behind growing and the passion he has for the heritage, and future, of fruit growing in the UK.
The book finishes with some wonderful recipes, summarising the chef’s passion for his ingredients. These recipes are quite easy to follow and fun to cook. The discovery of ‘RB’s Brown Sauce’ has elevated my love of the bacon butty forever.
Whether you have grown fruit all your life or never gardened before, you can’t read this book without being inspired by the stories behind this project, told with such passion. Blanc’s enthusiasm is so infectious that the day I finished the book I ordered 15 new plum trees.
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