Pick your own lemon grass – in exotic Lancashire

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Pick your own lemon grass – in exotic Lancashire

Ref: By Helen Pidd Monday September 3, 2007 The Guardian What with hotpot, crumbly cheese and Morecambe Bay potted shrimps, Lancashire has already given a lot to gastronomy. But the county’s contribution to filling the nation’s bellies is not only historic. On a small industrial estate near Ormskirk, one company is at the forefront of culinary invention, capitalising not just on the burgeoning interest in locally grown produce, but also the national obsession with curry. You’ve heard of pick-your-own strawberries. Well, at Greenhouse Sensation in Mawdesley, you can pick your own lemon grass. And, depending on when you go, ginger, sweet peppers, chillies and cardamom – and if you time it just right, even bananas and papayas. Over the weekend, the company’s 18 metre greenhouse was alive with the sights and smells of many of the fresh ingredients you would need to make the perfect Thai curry. All there was to do was grab a poly bag and get picking. You could tug up a root of lemon grass, rubbing your fingers on the lush, long leaves to release a sweet citrony scent. “Great to add to a vodka and tonic,” said Emma Lowther-Wright, Greenhouse Sensation’s marketing manager. Next to the lemon grass plant was an innocuous-looking shrub with tall, thin shoots. On closer inspection, this turned out to be the ginger plant. Sadly, it won’t be ready to pick for a few weeks yet, and it all needs to be dug up together. Last time a plant was harvested, it yielded an enormous 8kg (17.6lb) haul. There are two astonishing things about all this. First, that such produce can be grown in this country at all. Second, it is all free. Whereas traditional pick-your-own farms price their fruit steeply, factoring in the high probability you will have eaten at least as much on the way round as you present at the till at the end, at Greenhouse Sensation you are encouraged to pick and nibble, and will not be charged a penny. This summer the greenhouse proved to be a sensation. “We’ve had people travelling from all over the country to visit,” said Ms Lowther-Wright. “Somerset, Newcastle, Hull, Redcar. All over.” They have had so many visitors that they have produced a branded leaflet entitled Welcome to Mawdesley, advertising some of the other joys the village and its environs has to offer. It turns out here is a lot to do for the keen gastronome. Cedar Farm Galleries roasts its own coffee, the Mulberry Tree boasts a Roux-trained chef, and the Eagle and Child in Bispham Green is an award-winning gastro-pub.