Seed saving and winter planting in our kitchen garden
The best views on the Mornington Peninsula are undeniably the rolling hills of Red Hill in Summer, however much hard work and beauty can be found in our kitchen gardens and vineyards over the winter months. Couple this with less pressure from the crowds of summer and right now is a special time of the year to spend time at Montalto, awarded “Star Cellar Door” recently by Gourmet Traveller WINE Magazine.
“The complete winery experience awaits at Montalto, with behind-the-scenes tours, a sculpture trail, special events and the occasional music festival.”
Across our 75-acre estate in Red Hill, we combine a working vineyard and olive grove, kitchen gardens, fruit orchard and berry plantation with a commitment to the arts and an extensive sculpture collection, home to the famous Montalto Sculpture Prize, among the most valuable private sculpture prizes in Australia. Right now we ‘re planting Carentan Leeks, an heirloom variety from our seeds, that dates back to the 1880s, beetroot, carrots and Gai Choy in our polytunnels - Gai Choy is a green and leafy plant that our chefs love for the peppery, pungent taste, although it is less fiery than mustard greens.
At the moment we’re harvesting broad beans flowers - our chefs love the tops of the flowers, as well as parsnips, radishes. A favourite of our kitchens, Jerusalem artichokes are coming out. Coming up soon we’ll be planting potatoes - in tubs to control disease, and we can carefully watch the crop load develop over time and it makes harvest easier for the chefs. Also, more mustard greens are going in.
Our beehives have been locked down for winter. As our pollinators, bees play an important part in our ecosystem here in red Hill. They support the growth of trees and flowers which in turn provides food for other creatures. Bees contribute to our complex eco-system, allowing many different species to co-exist through our kitchen gardens, vineyards, and wetlands. The orchards have been pruned, with our raspberries next.
In the vineyard, Dan and his team have pruned 23,000 of our 126,000 vines - a huge effort, with more to go. Montalto uses a special method of pruning that respects vascular flow and ensures the continuity of sap flow through the structure of the plant. This ensures our vines enjoy a healthier, longer life. Precision pruning also greatly reduces the area of the resulting wound exposed and therefore reduces the risk of vine wood disease. Pruning now ensures we set the vines and orchards correctly for next year’s budburst and eventual harvest. The 2021 harvest starts now with these long hours of hand pruning.