During the early Victorian Era, the Head Gardener at the time, Jacob Niles, persuaded the Steward to invest in a conservatory. According to the journals kept by him and the Steward, the deciding factor was that it could be used for growing fruit in the long winter, including oranges and bananas. It wasn’t cheap and was costly to heat as it needed lots of seasoned wood to make it warm. Fortunately, triple glazed glass was used (at no small expense), and that helped. Certainly the fresh tropical fruit was a hit during our long Scottish winter. We still use it for that purpose but now we use solar power to heat it more efficiently than the original builders could have possibly have imagined.
So what does that have to do with strawberry ice cream? Well, that was my idea. You see, we exist on The Border with The Faerielands. Several decades back, I made friends with the Head Gardener for the Red Dragon House, who had no luck growing their version of strawberries — the ones that start red and turn white when fully ripe — when it turned cold there. So he asked me to see if I could make them flourish.
It took several years before I figured that it needed a symbiotic bacterium that didn’t like being cold, so I started growing them for the Red Dragon House with the proviso that we could also use them. Would you believe that took a contract signed by all parties? Elves are big on formality! Three pages of contract to be precise. And that’s how we came to have strawberry ice cream in the winter. The whole milk comes from High Meadow Farm, the vanilla from Madagascar, and it’s sweetened, just a bit, with honey from our hives. It’s quite delicious! Mind you we do use some traditional strawberry preserves to give it a proper colour.