You don’t have to travel far these days to find exotic spices and aromatics. Long gone have the days of perilous journeys East via the Cape of Good Hope to find Elizabethan exotica. But thanks to those brave men who did exactly that, many of whom sadly lost their lives, we can now enjoy an array of aromatics all year round!
Many plants and trees from which spices are harvested are still grown in tropical climates, however, there are a few spices which can be grown here in the U.K., one of which, ‘The Szechuan Pepper’, is grown nearby at Goldstone Hall Hotel, approx 3 miles from Market Drayton.
We caught up with the head gardener, Nick Huxley, to find out a little more about the spicy red berries which are one of the key ingredients of ‘Five Spice’.
Tell us a why the Szechuan Pepper Plant can grow here in Shropshire?
The Szechuan pepper plant, or Zanthoxylum simulan, is a bushy deciduous plant and grows happily in temperate climates. It is at home in most soils but mainly well draining sand, chalk or loam in a south facing aspect which is sheltered. We have reasonably sandy soil here at Goldstone Hall Hotel and therefore the Szechuan plant has the perfect conditions to grow well.
When is the best time to harvest the little red berries?
October in Autumn is the best time to harvest the Szechuan peppers in the U.K., just as the pinky red seedcases begin to open and show their dark seed. The little red berries need to be picked by hand and then left to dry out in a warm place for a few days. After we have picked the berries we prune the plant and in the following seasons we mulch around the base to minimise competition. Once the berries are dry they must be stored in an airtight container until being used.
How do you use the peppers in food at Goldstone Hall Hotel?
There are a myriad of methods for the use of the sezchuan pepper here at Goldstone Hall Hotel, however, a firm favourite is using them within our fig compote or our sloe and damson dipping sauce. We also add them to Goldstone house rub for our charcoal hog roasts – this gives piquancy to the deliciously crispy crackling! Last but by no means least, we love to add this seasonal spice to our house Gin and Tonics, made with the carefully crafted Warner Edwards Gin, the Szechuan pepper adds a wonderful aromatic note to the classic aperitif.
Do you grown any other exotic spices in the garden at Goldstone Hall Hotel?
Yes we do we grow and harvest Fennel seeds, Horseradish and other herbs such as Thyme, Laurel, Sage, Sweet cicely and Rosemary
The garden has something different on offer throughout each season. During the winter, when the nights draw in, we would recommend coming along to see the garden after you have enjoyed a delicious lunch in the restaurant at the hotel.
The multi award winning, Goldstone Hall, is a country house hotel and restaurant with a magnificent garden only 3 miles from Market Drayton. They have a restaurant which is open for lunch from Monday to Saturday 12noon to 2.30pm or for dinner Monday to Sunday from 6.30pm to 9.30pm, as well as Sunday lunch from 12noon to 2.30pm.
It is also the perfect location for wedding ceremonies, celebrations and parties for which guests can have exclusive use. The venue is also a suitable setting for business meetings and presentations throughout the week. To book, or any further information, please contact them on 01630 661202 or email email@example.com
The Ginger and Spice Festival celebrates the culinary heritage of Market Drayton and the surrounding areas. It takes place from 25th to 28th September 2019. For further information, please visit www.gingerandspicefest.co.uk