The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall is appealing for 90 tonnes of manure to help nurture pineapples that cost£10,000 each. The steep price tag is due to the horse manure needed to heat the pineapple pits in the winter months, transportation, equipment and labour. Past pineapples have landed on the plates of Prince Charles and the Queen, but now the gardeners will get a slice of the action to commend their hard work.
"They taste good though, they really do," said marketing assistant James Stephens. "The pineapple pits are one of our visitors' favourite features. "A few years back we discovered that we probably grew the most expensive pineapples in the world. "Excluding the original restoration of the pits but including labour, the pineapples would owe us around £10,000." Every year about 90 tonnes of horse manure are needed to heat the pineapple pits – a traditional method the Victorians would have used.
But in recent years, Heligan has been unable to source the quantity of manure needed for the winter months. The pineapples need 30 tonnes of fresh manure three times between the end of October and March, so that enough heat is generated to keep the pineapples growing. What's more, a specific type of manure is required – the chemical reaction which occurs between horse urine and straw is what generates the right amount of heat.
Over the years, many horse owners have switched to bedding their horses on hay instead of straw, making the right type of manure even more difficult to source. Heligan has recently been using a tractor to gather horse manure from a stable in Falmouth, which it said was not financially viable. The gardeners are currently using an electric heater to incubate their pricey pineapples, but want to get back to their traditional roots.