Midlothian castle’s garden grows back in time

Pete Jackson (left) and Derek Johnstone get to work in redeveloping Borthwick Castle's historic walled garden. Image credit: Chris Watt Photography
Pete Jackson (left) and Derek Johnstone get to work in redeveloping Borthwick Castle's historic walled garden. Image credit: Chris Watt Photography

Borthwick Castle head chef Derek Johnstone has collaborated with garden designer and horticulturalist Pete Jackson to redevelop the venue’s original walled garden.

Expected to open in spring 2020, Borthwick Castle’s four-acre walled garden will also be home to Scotland’s first kitchen garden to specialise in growing historic herbs, vegetables and fruits.

It will cultivate culinary herbs dating back to the 16th century, alongside heritage vegetables which will be supplied directly to the kitchen.

Work began on the Borthwick Castle walled garden in autumn 2018, to clear the space in preparation for development.

Winter vegetables will be planted this autumn, including horseradish, heritage carrots and golden beetroot, alongside herbs such as chervil, thyme and rosemary.

Derek Johnstone, head chef at Borthwick Castle, said: “Hundreds of years ago, the walled garden at Borthwick Castle would have been a space for herbs, fruits and vegetables to be grown on-site and prepared in the kitchen.

“Food provenance and sustainability are just as vital in 2019 as in the 16th century, and I’m delighted to be working with Pete to restore the garden and grow our own produce.

“Borthwick Castle is steeped in history, and it’s only fitting that this should extend to our food philosophy as well.

“Pete shares my vision for heritage ingredients to compliment the history of the castle, and our plans for the walled garden’s redevelopment have historic Scottish produce front and centre.”

Derek and Pete’s shared vision for the space at North Middleton extends to the pear and James Grieve apple trees which will be planted around the perimeter of the garden over the coming weeks.

James Grieve apples, which originated in Edinburgh in the 1890s during the Victorian period of apple development, will be grown for use in the Borthwick Castle kitchen for cooking ad juicing.

Pete Jackson, horticulturalist and garden designer, said: “Autumn is nature’s natural planting time as the soil is still warm, and there is more moisture in the ground. We’re taking full advantage of that at Borthwick Castle.

“At the moment, we’re planting heritage winter greens ready for Christmas, alongside winter herbs such as rosemary and thyme, which Derek can use in the castle kitchen straight away.

“Clearing the site is still ongoing, but it’s all starting to take shape.

“It’s an incredible space with loads of potential. It’s a pleasure to work with Derek and the team at Borthwick Castle, and I’m looking forward to seeing our vision for the garden develop.”

While the Borthwick Castle walled garden will primarily be a private space for castle guests and a sustainable source of ingredients for the kitchen, the space will be open to the public on select dates throughout the year. More details are expected to be announced this winter.

Derek and Pete also hope that in time, the walled garden can provide opportunities for local schools to learn about food and the environment.