Working The Perthshire Magic!

I love when I discover a wee hidden treasure right here in Perthshire and if I can fit into what I’m doing at 63 Tay Street so much the better.  This month I want to tell you all about the amazing work going on right under our noses in Bridge of Earn just a few miles down the road from the restaurant.  Folks, allow me to introduce you to Harvest Magic!

I’ve been sitting staring at this screen, thinking of the best way to describe what it is that Harvest Magic does and the best I can come up with is that it’s a Sustainable Garden Eco System.  I know that sounds a bit ‘trendy’ and there are far too many buzz words in there for my own liking but the truth is, Scott Brown has developed this amazing system that uses waste, worms and old fashioned elbow grease to produce some of the most stunning produce that goes through my kitchen.

Worm Farm Compost, Black Gold.
Worm Farm Compost, Black Gold.

It all started back in 2008 when Scott broke his leg and had too much time on his usually busy hands! He was a semi-professional footballer in his heyday and moved into painting and decorating which remains his main job.   While attempting to occupy himself with a leg in a stookie he came across an article about worm compost and started to read up about this amazing method of producing natural, non-chemical based compost.

As the leg healed the idea grew and he installed his own worm farm into his garden down in Bridge of Earn. The idea is that you put all your food peelings and vegetable waste – including tea leaves, coffee granules and egg shells – in beside the worms and leave them to do the rest. The compost is called Black Gold and is actually made rich by the worm poo.

So far so nothing to do with a Two Rosette Kitchen! However, Scott loved his worm compost so much he began to look around for other ways to develop his recycling and self-sufficiency and lo and behold, the answer was birds! Twenty quails to start with, quickly followed by a brood of hens.   This is when he contacted me!

Free Range hens in Perthshire.
Free range hens are so much happier!

I started to take quail eggs from Scott back in 2010 when he knocked on the door and offered me a taste! I think I’m right in saying that we remain one of the few restaurants he supplies.  These little eggs are amazingly tasty, and Scott’s have a gorgeous brown speckled shell with a rich golden yolk. If you’ve never had quails eggs I can thoroughly recommend them; they have a slightly stronger flavour than a hens egg and with Scott’s birds being fed real food waste and egg shells they are infinitely tastier then others I’ve tried.

We’re currently serving Quail Eggs on the summer menu and if you fancy trying them at home start by boiling them until they’re soft and sprinkling them in celery salt atop some sourdough bread.   That sums up my mantra of #LocalHonestSimple perfectly!

Eco System Farms
The team find out more about what happens at Harvest Magic!

So, next up was bees – it was inevitable really. Scott completed a Bee Keeping evening course over a one year period and bought his first hive in 2010. Since then, he has expanded his numbers but there is still only a small batch of honey produced each year – thankfully I’m on his list for a jar or two and love his annual delivery of the clear, runny honey when it arrives at the restaurant.

The bees are local to Bridge of Earn so the pollen is collected from the oil seed rape and gardens along the valley.  He took his first batch to the Dundee Food and Flower Fayre back in 2011 and won third place overall that year. It is his young daughter though, who went one step further and has produced a line of beeswax candles that won first place at the same show!

As you can probably tell, I am completely hooked on his philosophy and the passion he has for this amazing eco-system he has produced.  We started keeping our peelings, egg shells, tea leaves and coffee grinds for him to use in the Black Gold worm compost and I’ve been itching to get out and see it all in practice. So, I asked him if we could all come out and have a visit and being a nice guy who loves to chat about his ideas to geeky chefs, he said yes!

We had an amazing day! It was Kayren’s first week and there we all are out enjoying a tour of a worm, hen and quail farm.  He also has a huge veg patch which unfortunately is only big enough to sustain the family, and sitting in the kitchen are rows of jars with handmade Beetroot Chutney cooling in them.

For me, this was a perfect day out of the kitchen. I firmly believe that seeing what goes into making produce as good as the quails’ eggs Scott supplies us makes a chef passionate about what he or she is doing.   The end result sings from the plate and a humble wee egg can become a thing of great delicacy.  To see Scott taking something as far as it can go is amazing.

And it’s not just that doing things as nature intended is better for the taste (although that is the over-riding factor!) it’s also that we’re addressing issues on waste and making ourselves greener.  He came in the other day with a bucket of compost for my roses and I knew that some of my kitchen scraps had gone into making it. Last week when he was dropping off eggs he asked if he could take the cardboard boxes we had perched up against a wall ready for the blue bin – turns out they make brilliant worm beds when shredded! AND, he’s also investigating an article he read about a bloke who grows mushrooms on cardboard box sides. Of course he is!

If as a team, we can help one another and develop these ideas into real, working systems then surely that’s a bonus for everyone. Scott can develop his system into a commercial enterprise, I can source everything from mushrooms to honey and our customers can enjoy tasty, local and sustainable ingredients from the Harvest Magic Man down the road.  Simple!

The photographs you see here are from our trip down to Harvest Magic; I’d like to say a huge thanks on behalf of Lee, Ryan, Kayren and myself for making it such a fantastic day out.  

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