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A food future grows at Leeds Harewood estate

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There is more to Harewood than art work and antique collections and something is growing for the future – quite literally.

As we come towards the end of the year, the Harewood Food and Drink project is also coming to the end of its first proper year of operation.

Set up by the Harewood Estate, it operates as a separate entity to the trust that oversees Harewood House but will be integral to the future of both.

For almost 300 years the 4,500 acres of estate grounds have been pretty much self-sufficient with cattle, lamb, venison, garden produce and game birds providing the food for those who lived and worked on the estate, at the house and also in the village.

And now the Lascelles family, which owns the estate, is making the produce part of its future.

Eddy Lascelles, director of the Harewood Food and Drink project said: “As a family we have been lucky to have access to this but it has been a best kept secret and never on a commercial scale.

“We have talked about ‘why don’t we do something with this?’ and these conversations gathered pace and it got to the point where we just went for it.”

Historically the grounds staff have concentrated on re-creating the heritage varieties in the seven acres of walled garden and produce that is rarely available in supermarkets. In one year Harewood House Trust head gardener Trevor Nicholson grew 120 varieties of tomatoes.

The variety of home-grown produce coming out of the walled garden is in part due to a system, and a feat of engineering that has been in place since pre Victorian times.

A series of double walls surround the garden and within them are a series of water pipes, fired by wood and coal, which create heat.

It allowed for the growing of exotic fruit such as pineapples and peaches. Readily available now but, back then they were a symbol of aristocracy.

Nowadays the focus is growing produce for the gin and beer ranges that the estate has started to produce.

So, the mulberries and elderberries that go into the estate’s brand gin (made with Whittaker’s distillery in Nidderdale) are handpicked from the Harewood grounds – as are the rhubarb, elderflowers, hops and plums that go into the four seasonal bottled beers made with Knaresborough based Roosters Brew Co, Ilkley Breweries or Quirky Craft Ales of Garforth.

Collaborating with the best of local independents is key to the progression of the Food and Drink Project, which is also how the Lascelles see the future viability of Harewood.

Eddy said: “We want to work with small independent producers to benefit from their skills and they benefit from the association with the Harewood brand.”

He added that the project, which has staged pop-up dining experiences and other collaborations, which may not made money in its first year, has formed the right partnerships to take it forward.

Eddy added: “Harewood has all the challenges that Castle Howard or Chatsworth has. We have to stay relevant and keep progressing. When people think of Harewood they think of collections or the art but we want the project to tell the other story. Harewood has an amazing history and heritage but it has an amazing future, the potential is huge.”