In the latest edition of Scottish Field we speak to Yva McKerlich for Producers Corner.
Yva talks about how her failed attempt at growing vegetables in her greenhouse led her to create the ‘world’s first’ green tomato gin.
Since she was a child Yva McKerlich has loved growing vegetables.
Growing up in the late 70s, with parents who embraced the hippy culture, Yva said there were no sweets in the cupboards during her childhood, but instead a garden full of peapods she would sneak out of her bedroom window to snack on.
The experience inspired 47-year-old Yva, who has a small batch distillery in Lanarkshire, to create what she claims is a world-first – in the shape of green tomato gin.
‘I grew up in farming country in a cottage with fields on all sides and we turned a big chunk of what had been grass into a vegetable garden,’ Yva said.
‘My parents had real hippy leanings and this was the late 70s, early 80s, so being able to add fresh grown veg to what was on the table made a big difference financially too.
‘We were a house that didn’t have sweets in the cupboard, but there were peapods growing in the garden that I could sneak out of my bedroom window in the night to harvest instead.
‘Now that I have a garden big enough to allow a wee bit of greenhouse and raised bed growing, I have gone back to some of the things I learned as a child and started growing peas and veg for myself.
‘My mum was a big gardener as were her parents down in Yorkshire and it was my grandad who had the greenhouse skills – I don’t think I have quite inherited his abilities, but I am trying again this year.’
Described as a ‘posh salad’, her Racy GT Green Tomato Gin is the fourth member of her gin family which started with the Jaunty Camper Gin – a tribute to her beloved 1972 VW campervan.
During lockdown former English teacher Yva began to grow her own tomatoes in a second-hand greenhouse she bought for her garden, but said she was often left with green tomatoes at the end of the season.
Yva began trying a few slices of green tomato as a gin garnish and then infused some in gin before creating a distilled recipe.
‘The green tomato gin goes back to my limited talents as a tomato grower,’ she said.
‘I had bought a second hand greenhouse during lockdown and my skills were still developing, so I had rather a lot of still green fruits at the end of the season.
‘I could have made gallons of chutney, but I also liked the salad flavour of them and went from trying a few slices as a gin garnish to infusing some in gin and then to creating a distilled gin recipe.
‘The gin had a couple of fans in my friendship group right back in those early stages who kept me on track over the year or so that it took to develop the final recipe.’
So far, 130 bottles have been produced, with another possible 140 before her stock runs out and production will be on hold until the 2023 growing season begins in September.
‘The young tomato plants are in my greenhouse right now, but it will be September or October before they have developed enough to be harvested as green tomatoes,’ she said.
‘You can’t take them too early because the flavour changes as they grow even if you do want to pick them before the colour change begins.
‘This season I will be dealing with larger quantities than when I was still at recipe development stages – all of that was done with tomatoes I grew myself.
‘I have a local grower in the Clyde Valley who can supply me with bigger quantities for this year’s production once my frozen stocks have run out.’
Yva says the gin goes perfectly with a piece of gherkin and a savoury tonic like Franklin’s rosemary and black olive. For a sweeter serve, she recommends a slice of green apple and Mediterranean tonic.
What’s in your fridge at home right now?
Cheese, more cheese, olives, gherkins and apples. I love to snack and serve up bowls of crisps with cheese and apple on the side.
If you could cook for anyone, who would it be and why?
My hard working teacher friends – they are so appreciative of any and all care and attention that they receive so they always say nice things.
What’s your favourite bar to enjoy a nice gin in Scotland?
I’m torn between my lovely local bar in The Strathaven Hotel where all of my gins are behind the bar, and the view over the water from The Rockvilla in Lochcarron which is family owned and a gorgeous stopping point on the NC500 route.
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