Over the Garden Wall: Karena Armstrong

Travelling to McLaren Vale, Klemzig and the city to shoot chefs and cooks in their garden of choice, we get a flavour of what inspires some of this state’s gastronomic identities from their backyard and beyond.

Overlooking picturesque vines on the western side of Karena Armstrong’s McLaren Vale property is a large kitchen garden that the chef utilises for her restaurant, the acclaimed Salopian Inn.

Armstrong, who worked at big shot interstate eateries such as Billy Kwong, Icebergs and The Lake House, returned home to South Australia a few years back, taking over the Salopian Inn with her husband after stints at The Victory Hotel and Star of Greece.

The chef planted the garden, which is run using biodynamic principles and provides at least 40 bunches of herbs to the Salopian Inn kitchen every week, after transforming the much-loved McLaren Vale institution into one of this state’s most acclaimed regional
restaurants.

“We focus on growing what we can’t buy and items that have better flavour [when] grown by us,” Armstrong says of the kitchen garden.

“On a good week the garden supplies 70 per cent of what we need [in the kitchen].“

She says the garden challenges her to look at every fruit and vegetable to identify the ideal time to pick each item, and to know what can be preserved, what can be eaten straight away as well as inspiring the chef to be creative when there is a glut of a certain ingredient.

Armstrong and her Salopian Inn team, which only use local and seasonal produce, have now added a raised bed-garden at the restaurant as they occasionally run out of lettuce, kale and herbs mid-service.

Armstrong says she seeks “other biodynamic produces” when looking for ingredients she can’t grow herself but understands if they aren’t biodynamic as “it is a very demanding way of farming”.

“Local and grown with love are our real purchasing requirements,” she says.

salopian.com.au