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A kitchen garden in Croatia

Bolara 60 is a guesthouse in Istria, Croatia, carefully restored in traditional local stone and owned and run by Anna Colquhoun and Matt Purver. It’s an ideal base for anyone wanting to explore the local area, and to experience the food and drink of the region.

Anna invited me to come out to Bolara 60 to work on planning and planting the vegetable garden at the start of the 2018 season. The garden needs to supply the kitchen and a continual houseful of guests. The food at Bolara 60 celebrates traditional Istrian produce and anything that grows well in the Mediterranean climate and the produce in the kitchen garden needs to reflect this. Anna is a cooking teacher, food writer, and academic researcher, who ran cookery classes and a supper club in north London as the Culinary Anthropologist for some years before coming out to Istria. Many of the guests come here to expand their food horizons and Anna will give classes and demos to guests on request.

In our first season, we started off with some traditional Mediterranean crops: tomatoes, chillies, sweet peppers, aubergines, squash and pumpkins, courgettes, cucumbers and melons. Bolara 60 is just half an hour away from the Italian border, so Italian favourites such as globe artichokes, borlotti beans and chicories were also included from the start. 

On the other side of the house, an orchard of tree and stone fruit is gradually being planted: apricots, peaches, cherries, plums, pomegranates, kiwi fruit, quince and persimmons. We have also been experimenting with fruit
more usually associated with the cooler, damper British climate: medlars, gooseberries, blackberries and rhubarb (yes, I know, not really a fruit -).

In 2019, we assessed what had done well, and how to make better use of the space in the walled garden. The perennial herb bed was replanted and an asparagus bed added. The Istrians eat a lot of wild asparagus; the cultivated version is harder to find.

We have also been working on Bolara 60’s ornamental gardens: although the kiwi plant does produce fruit, it is trained over wires on the terrace to provide some welcome shade in summer. Nepeta does well here and is planted close together for informal edging; rosemary and lavender are grown throughout
the garden for their looks and fragrance. Hibiscus provides some lovely summer colour as well, and citrus plants in sturdy barrels are stately specimens which will also yield fruit in time. A Wisteria is threatening to run riot over the south-facing walls and a Trachelospermum jasminoides provides flower
and colour over the walls of the summer kitchen building. Roses dominate in the ‘English garden’ and frothy Cotinus coggygria line the driveway.

This is an area renowned for its olive trees, and is about as far north as will provide a reliable yearly olive harvest and Bolara 60 has its own mini-olive grove as well as several olive trees dotted around the grounds.

For more on Bolara 60 and the kitchen garden project, see my blog: http://www.gourmetgardening.co.uk/2018/05/bolara-60-kitchen-garden-in-for-this.html