In this new series, we go behind the scenes to meet some of the inspiring artisan producers, makers, farmers and growers that supply Teals, a new foodie destination off the A303 in South Cadbury and recent winners of Best Farm Shop 2022.
NO.1 WILD GARDEN, GALHAMPTON
All I know is that I love this place. The feeling of it,’ says Nick Ross to me, stretchingout his arms to show that he is talking about the 2-acre plot that is Wild Garden, where he and his partner Tia Cusden live and work. I have arrived early one morning at the height of the harvesting season at their market garden in Galhampton, 10 miles north of Sherborne, which specialises in organic leaves for salad and cooking.
It is a magical place, a balance of nature-friendly wilderness and strictly laid out beds, filled with an abundance of healthy and bountiful green leaves. A chequerboard of lime green Expertise and deep purple-red curly-leafed Haflex lettuce sit alongside neat rows of ruby-stalked chard and almost black cavolo nero, their leaves whole and perfect and packed with intense flavours and dense nutrients.
Tunnels in the next garden section house tomato plants, their stalks supported by vertical strings, densely fruited with tomatoes of all shapes, sizes and colours, from the bright orange cherry Goldiana, and the rich purple variety Black Cherry to the ridged, pinky-red beefsteak Saint Pierre. The next tunnel is home to cucumbers which will never be coated in plastic, whose pale green flesh is dense, with an aromatic flavour and substantial crunch. Outside, peppery nasturtiums clamber the length of the tunnel like unruly children, joyful in their bright yellows, oranges and fiery reds.
The bags of their salad I hold in my hand are astonishingly beautiful. The leaves are varied and colourful, bright and vigorous, and nestled amongst them, fronds and tendrils of herbs, and the purple, blue and orange of edible flower petals. Tossed with olive oil, cider vinegar and a scrunch of flaky salt, they taste quite unlike any bagged salad you will buy from a supermarket. They are sharp and mild, peppery and milky, they have crunch and texture. They taste alive.
‘At the height of the season, we cut 60-80kg of lettuce a week to supply our customers. We get 2-3 crops from each depending on the type. We have played around with varieties and because we are organic, we’re very strict and fussy about what works. In summer, we add herbs like chervil and dill and edible flowers. In the winter we have rockets and mustards and small brassica leaves to add variety and interest,’ says Tia.