The Perfect Ingredient: The Black Swan’s Beetroot

James travels to The Black Swan’s fantastic kitchen garden in Oldstead, North Yorkshire, to find the perfect beetroot.

The Banks family has lived and farmed in North Yorkshire for generations. They established the Black Swan at Oldstead, which is now run by head chef Tommy Banks. Over the last year, Tommy and his team have created an impressive kitchen garden, growing a variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs that are used on the Black Swan’s menus and also supplied to other restaurants by Wellocks – such as the crapaudine beetroot.

Behind the Michelin-starred pub and restaurant is a 2.5 acre field that has been converted into growing beds and terraces. Tommy says: “It’s been a real journey, this first year growing on a scale like this –  it’s made a massive difference to the way we cook. Just getting these great, fresh ingredients has really simplified everything we do.”

The crapaudine beetroot is one such product. The name comes from the French word meaning female toad – so named because of its lumpy appearance. It’s a biennial plant, meaning it takes two years to complete its biological life cycle and grows in cool and even cold climates – perfect for Yorkshire! It has dark red, carrot-shaped roots and a lovely, strong flavour.

For Tommy this is the best variety of beetroot – it has a superb flavour – and being able to grow it in Yorkshire and get it straight out to other kitchens is really special. Tommy says, “It’s got a natural, sugary sweetness and I like to use it desserts quite a lot – but then it also has that earthiness that goes so well with game.”

Tommy cooks up a dish of pigeon, spelt and the freshly picked beetroot – the earthiness of the beetroot and the spelt go together brilliantly. He keeps it quite simple and fresh to really let the flavours shine through. “When the journey from ground to plate is so short, it really gives more flavour. It’s fantastic.” See his recipe here.

It is really interesting working with someone like Tommy. Being able to see great varieties being grown in Yorkshire and pick up such fresh produce for our other customers, which is really exciting. For Tommy and the team here at Wellocks, it’s all about getting the perfect ingredients out there to everybody – and into the kitchen the day after picking.

Did you know?

  • The name crapaudine comes from the french word which means female toad
  • Crapaudine is one of the oldest varieties of beetroot
  • The ancient Greeks offered beetroot to the god Apollo on silver platters at his temple at Delphi
  • Beetroot is one of the most environmentally-friendly crops, rarely needing treatment with pesticides
  • What we call beetroot is the taproot portion of the beet plant
  • Betanin, obtained from the roots, is used industrially as red food colourant
  • They are a good source of vitamin C