Fruit and vegetables bursting with flavour with virtually no food miles are a seasonal delight in Orkney when the long days of summer means the sun is up above the horizon for longer than virtually anywhere in Britain. Growers make the most of the long days and it is surprising what grows successfully so far north. Polytunnels and greenhouses magnify the warmth of the sun to produce wonderfully tasty traditional style tomatoes and strawberries to die for. Salad leaves under plastic have a long growing season, along with herbs, other greens and even vegetables associated with Mediterranean climes, such as courgettes and peppers.
During the season local shops have Orkney fruit and vegetables piled high including many varieties of beans, cabbages and cauliflower, currants, gooseberries and masses of root vegetables including turnip, carrots and beetroot. Neeps, or yellow turnips, are used in the traditional Orkney dish, clapshot, a blend of mashed neeps and tatties, served with haggis or mince. Orkney is famous for its rhubarb which grows like Topsy in the late spring and early summer. Piles of rhubarb are sold in shops from growers and householders, keen to not let the massive crop go to waste.
But it is tatties (potatoes) which hold a special place in the hearts of Orcadians. Sackfuls of Orkney tatties are available in the local stores and the Co-op and local growers sell them in shops and at the farm gate. Heritage varieties from white, to red to pink to black offer flavours unlike the mass produced modern hybrids. They are used in salads, with mince and in the popular Orcadian speciality, patties. These are a chip shop favourite and involve a filling of mashed tatties mixed with mince or cheese, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried.
Hotels and restaurants are served by wholesalers and independent growers.