Today I wanted to share some photos from our visit to the Pillars of Hercules farm a few weeks ago. We were looking for a farm visit not too far from Edinburgh, and on a beautiful Saturday in early September, we headed up to see what this organic farm/shop/cafe/camping ground was all about.
On our way, and without realizing how close we were to the farm, we pulled over for a longer look at these clouds and the shadows floating across a wheat field. It turns out we would see the same field along the farm tour route, but I’m glad we caught this light. Our afternoon walk in Fife was arranged around making it to the farm in time for a quick tour before an evening dinner in the cafe. The sun was already setting when we arrived, so Terence grabbed a map, and we headed out to wander around the farm trail.
Here’s a bit of the farm…Herbs and flowers grown in pots and a small garden outside the main building. Basil, lettuces and more basil in some of the beautiful greenhouses. Tomatoes strung up in the warmth and protection of another greenhouse. Chickens in the apple orchard.(Unfortunately I have no photos of the fields of leeks and brassicas – my fault for not realizing my card was nearly full.)
The trail finishes back at the shop/cafe, after crossing through the campground area, where many families were setting up dinner, children were running around and parents were settling into a sunset drink. Even in early September, the evening was getting cold very quickly, and I was glad we were heading back for a warm meal.
As we walked towards the main buildings, I was struck by how simple but great it is to have the opportunity to see the insides of the farms that dot the countryside near our new city. I’ve been impressed and encouraged by the number of small farms around Edinburgh that have trail maps for you to explore the fields and greenhouses, which make it possible to get behind the shop front as consumers and see the other side of where our food is grown. One of the reasons we make time for these visits on our weekends is to get a better sense of the types of herbs, vegetables, fruit and flowers that are in season at that moment in our area. Visiting farm shops gives you a sense of that, of course, but even more so when you’re able to explore the space and land behind the beautifully stocked shelves.
Naturally, farm shops’ stock reflects more accurately the produce that is coming out of the fields and the greenhouses that week than any supermarket in town, and we’ve noticed that they tend to be great sources of organic dry and household goods (the Pillars of Hercules shop has recently won an award to that effect). But I’ve started looking more closely for the labels that say ‘grown here’ or ‘from our farm’ after the initial excitement to see all the gorgeous produce piled high. Farms often supplement their own produce with organic fruits and veggies from nearby in Scotland (and Europe in many cases) to make it easier for locals to do more of their shopping in one place. We can talk about that more elsewhere, and I’m interested in what that means for how consumers understand seasonality, but for now, if we have the chance to choose between something grown on the farm or brought in from elsewhere, I like to prioritize space for the farm’s produce. It’s a lovely way to feel our weekend adventures are permeating our meals back in the city and to encourage me to work an unexpected ingredient into a recipe that week. This is no bad thing, and it calls back the feeling of the day’s warmth that had gathered in the tomato house and surrounded us as we stepped in from the evening air and the scent of the grass smelled in the orchard with the chickens scrounging around at our feet.
So just a note of gratitude for the farmers and growers who make space for us visitors on your fields and in your greenhouses. I am so grateful for the opportunity to share your view for a time.
P.S. If you’re interested, we had a wonderful meal at the restaurant that evening – ‘cheesy risotto’ with homemade pesto and roasted tomatoes for me, a delicious bean burger with homemade tomato chutney and lots of fresh salad greens for Terence. BYO-wine from the adjoining shop topped it off, but I’m sure we’ll save room for a cake next time we visit. Maybe with a tent, an extra layer and time for breakfast in the morning.
P.P.S. This is how we integrated the produce from that weekend…Frittatas are in fairly constant rotation in our house, and for good reason. They’re adaptable to every season and have a way of bringing almost anything that you picked up at the market into a delicious meal. Even better, their taste actually improves on the second or third day, so they’re a great packed lunch.