Simple summer pleasures – the Berry Fest of summer fruits

Don’t mess with the best. It’s Berry Fest! The kitchens at RHS Garden Wisley are alive with the fragrance of the finest summer fruits

Each morning at the moment the kitchen team and I are starting work with a walk to Wisley’s berry patch and Herb Garden to pick the latest fresh produce. Wisley is particularly famous for its strawberries, and grows more than 20 different cultivars, but did you realise it also holds the National Plant Collections of gooseberries and redcurrants?

Gooseberry and elderflower cheesecakeOur gooseberry and elderflower cheesecake has been a much-loved seasonal treat at Wisley for years – the combination of sweet, sharp, sour and creamy flavours is just lovely. This year we are developing this very English pairing further with gooseberry and elderflower trifle, and gooseberry and elderflower jellies. I put a little crisp white wine in the base syrup for both these desserts to add another layer of flavour.
Wisley strawberries are not fully in season just yet so we have sourced some wonderful Kentish fruit for the new Strawberry Cream Tea we’ll be serving in the Restaurant. This light £9.50 option is ideal for warmer weather and for those folk who don’t want the full traditional ceremony of sandwiches, scones and pastries. Instead, a scone with clotted cream and Wisley preserves is followed by a refreshing bowl of fresh strawberries with pouring cream.
When it comes to cooking with berries my personal philosophy is don’t muck about with them. A sprinkle of caster sugar and a dollop of Cornish clotted cream really is the best. Or put your favourite glasses in the fridge to chill, then add some berries and top up with sparkling wine or champagne.

Delicious drinks - and a recipe competition!

Less-than-perfect fruit goes either into Wisley preserves or our freshly-made soft drinks – this week I concocted a blueberry and lemon verbena lemonade that I hope you have the chance to enjoy on your next visit. At home I like to make a berry purée then freeze it in ice cubes. Then when guests come round, we pop the berry cubes in glasses, add a dash of flavoured syrup (try a herb one), then pour in sparkling wine.
Wisley-grown strawberries on saleDuring the course of our Berry Fest this summer (20 July – 27 September) we will also be serving strawberry cheesecake, berry-studded Pimm’s jellies and glazed berry tarts with pastry cream.

If you think you have a better idea, why not enter our recipe competition?

The winning dish will be featured in the Wisley Food Hall and the winner will receive a complimentary meal for four in the Restaurant. To enter, email the recipe, a photo and your contact details to [email protected].

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.