5 Riverford recipes for June

June is the start of The Veg New Year. The Hungry Gap has ended and our fields are suddenly bountiful with all sorts of greenery and vibrant veg; new potatoes, spinach, British asparagus, broad beans and more are in abundance.

Make the most of them in this gorgeous summer dishes, picked by legendary Riverford cook Kirsty.

Warm Potato, Radish & Bean Salad

When new potatoes and radishes are in full swing, how better to celebrate than with this superlative salad. The herbs and capers create a salsa verde – a perfect match for the beans and eggs too. Just be careful with your seasoning, as the capers and olives both lend a saltiness to the finished dish.

See the full warm potato, radish & bean salad with eggs, olives & saffron mayo dressing recipe.

Frying-pan Spinach Soufflé

The word soufflé seems to strike fear into the hearts of even competent cooks, but this version is simple and accommodating. All you’re looking for is to get the eggs to rise slightly, then crisp a little on top, like a puffy omelette. The two things to get right with any form of soufflé are to whisk your egg whites until you can tip the bowl over your head without them falling out (really!) and to fold them in gently to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.

See the full frying-pan spinach soufflé recipe.

Gnocchi with Courgettes, Broad Beans & Peas

The gnocchi and courgettes cook fast, leaving you plenty of time to pod your peas and beans. Podding has a meditative quality to it (for anything less than a kilo!). If it’s speed rather than enlightenment you’re after, split the pile in half and race someone. You can use the broad beans with their skins on, but if you have time it’s worth slipping them from their skins to reveal the bright green bean inside.

See the full gnocchi & crème fraîche with courgettes, broad beans & peas recipe.

Asian Raw Green Bean Salad

Raw beans can add a great crunch to a salad, but they don’t hold a dressing well when kept whole. Slicing them finely creates more nooks, crannies and surface area for all the flavour to cling to. Here we’ve dressed them with an Asian dressing and added radish and peanuts for a satisfying crunch.

See the full Asian raw green bean salad recipe.

Asparagus & Portobello Noodles

Seasonal asparagus is brought to life in this quick, simple stir-fry dish, with Asian flavours from ginger, sesame oil, hoisin sauce and chilli. The cooking for this dish is done at such a pace that it is vital to have all your ingredients prepared and to hand before you start, preferably in the order they are to be used. Peanuts finish the noodles with a salty hit and satisfying bite.

See thefull asparagus & portobello noodles recipe.

Guy’s news: Soil, analysis & hope

“Low pH, low or very low Potassium and Phosphorous … lime and adequate fertiliser application essential”. According to the soil analysis on my desk, my pumpkins should be dead, or at least stunted. I am kicking myself for not sending off the samples earlier when we could have limed, spread some muck or even chosen another field. I shouldn’t be surprised; this is thin, grade three land where no conventional commercial grower would dream of planting veg.

Too late now; the crop is in the ground. Yet the five-week old pumpkins are romping away with good leaf colour despite only 1cm of rain since planting. I suspect they are having to work hard to find their nutrients; a scrape at the soil shows roots already stretching over 40cm with growth of 2cm a day and accelerating. A little hardship can make for a healthier, tastier and more nutritious crop which shrugs off pests and stores well, though it may not produce the highest yield. It is a long way to harvest but, walking the field, I have a good feeling despite the lab’s suggestions of doom.

One would be a fool to ignore measurement of soluble nutrients (available to roots now) and total nutrients (possibly available later), but they are just one indicator of how well a crop might do and offer only a snapshot of a dynamic situation. Further information can be gleaned from leaf colour, how previous crops have grown, which ‘indicator weeds’ dominate and their leaf size/colour (if docks and chickweed look strong you can be pretty sure most veg will do well); the feel, structure, colour and even the smell of the soil also help. How easy it is for the roots to extend and form intimate contact with the soil is just as important as concentration of soluble nutrients. much will depend on the microbial activity breaking down and releasing the nutrients from the previous crop and mycorrhizal fungi that form a bridge between the roots and the soil. A soil analysis is one small indicator along with others that come for free.

Despite my confidence we have applied a top dressing of sieved compost and cultivated it into the top, most active, 10cm of soil with our first inter-row hoeing. Next year, I will get the samples done earlier. But ultimately, like a growing number of crops, what these pumpkins need most of all is rain.

Guy Singh-Watson

Riverford’s UK-only veg box – one way to buy local veg

Our 100% UK veg box returns this week after its hiatus for the Hungry Gap. We’re celebrating its return with the story behind our most local, seasonal offering.

Birth of a box
Back in 1993, when we packed our first veg box, what little imported organic produce available was fit only for the compost heap by the time it got here, so our veg boxes were UK-only by default.

25 years and many, many veg boxes later, we’re happy to be part of a broader church. While the majority of our veg is still homegrown, it is supplemented with imports, mostly from Guy’s French farm and a group of organic growers in Spain, with some from further afield (transported by sea or road; never airfreighted). Together they provide things that have come to be regarded as year-round staples in most households – tomatoes, peppers, bananas, citrus, and so on – without the environmental disaster that is UK heated glass production, and without losing the closeness to our growers.

We reckon we strike a pretty good balance between principles and pragmatism in what we provide. Having said that, we do believe in a sustainable as well as a pleasurable diet wherever possible, and wanted to provide a truly local veg box for anyone who sought to minimise their food miles and embrace the UK seasons.

The first time we tried to launch the 100% UK veg box, it barely sold at all, and we had to withdraw it. But following lots of customer requests, we decided to give it another go a few years later – and this time, it has been a steady success! Sales of the UK-only box have now climbed to 6% of all veg box sales; that’s 50% up on last year, and treble the year before.

Easier said than done
It might seem like filling a box with local veg would be easier, because there’s no need to deal with importation – but actually, it presents a totally different set of complexities.

The Hungry Gap
The Hungry Gap is the hardest time of year for UK farmers: a few weeks, usually in April, May and early June, after the winter crops have ended but before the new season’s plantings are ready to harvest. In the early days of local veg boxes, all deliveries would stop during this time of bare fields.

25 years later, there is still no way around the Hungry Gap apart from the use of heated glasshouses. For every kilo of tomatoes grown in a glass hothouse in the UK, 2-3 kilos of C02 are released into the atmosphere… we’d far rather go without. So the 100% UK veg box must vanish from our shelves for a few weeks every year, and its buyers temporarily swap onto one of our other boxes.

Repetition
When we plan the contents of our veg boxes across the year, we work hard to avoid repetition. The team look carefully at how often each box has contained all different varieties of veg, so that no one ends up bored with the same items week after week, or overwhelmed by a mountain of cabbages.

That thinking has to totally go out of the window with the 100% UK veg box. In winter, you will get heavy root veg every week; just right for hearty cold-weather cooking. In summer, you will feast on sweet, fresh salads – but not see a tomato again for the rest of the year. We expected more complaints about this, but people have been very understanding of the limitations; they know that it represents a real seasonal diet. And because the vegetables are being eaten in their natural seasons, they are always at their best.

Unexpected perks
While there are obvious benefits to eating 100% local veg – most prominently the confidence you can have in the sustainability of your diet – there are further benefits to the box that we hadn’t anticipated.

Veg that grow together, go together
Another reason that the repetitive contents of the UK-only box might not bother customers is that the flavours of each season tend to complement each other very well.

Every week, our chef Bob looks at the planned contents of each veg box, and offers his culinary perspective: can these veg be easily combined into a week of flavoursome meals? Often, Bob will suggest changes to make the selection more harmonious. With the UK box, he barely ever has to make any tweaks; the veg, grown in the same local season, usually go perfectly together without any intervention.

Grown by us!
More so than any other box, the UK-only box is packed with veg from our own Riverford farms. It’s the box that is most representative of our fields – which gives us a little extra affection for it!

Summer bounty

The 100% UK veg box is now back from its hiatus for the Hungry Gap. Going into summer is a great time to give it a try: on the horizon, a bounty of homegrown delights, from new season bunched carrots, asparagus spears and tangy rhubarb, to juicy tomatoes, award-winning mini cucumbers and freshly picked salad leaves.

Order the 100% UK veg box online today. If every week is too much of a plunge, why not try a pragmatic weekly alteration with one of our other boxes?

Guy’s news: The vegetable new year arrives

Geetie, my wife, says I stink of artichokes. My fingers are bitter with their sap, and my shoulders ache from lugging the tea picker-style baskets down the rows. Sitting in the office, I itch to get back to them, jealous if anyone else even suggests doing the picking. Fortunately Geetie likes the smell – as does our new dog, Artichoke (Arty for short). Globe artichokes are probably our least profitable crop, but this has done nothing to dampen my enthusiasm. 25 years on from smuggling my first plants back from Brittany and planting them from a pram shared with Alice, my first born, I love the crop more than ever. While they are in season I will cook them several times a week, until even I tire of their earthy bitterness. I appreciate that many find them a ridiculously timeconsuming, expensive and wasteful form of foodie one-upmanship, so they will seldom, if ever, be in the boxes. Instead they will be available to buy as ‘extras’; the large ones for boiling, and the baby ones for stews, frying, BBQs or roasting.

I might be mad about artichokes, but perhaps more significantly for everyone else, we have also started harvesting new potatoes, cucumbers, lettuces, spinach, salad onions, basil and various salad leaves, with cabbage and carrots just a few days away. After the spring deluge, we have now had less than an inch of rain in six weeks; beyond the reach of irrigation, it is getting dry. Early potatoes are struggling, and overly dry soil creates the danger of bruising at harvest – but most other crops are doing well, and catching up a little after a late, wet spring. Overall we’re happy, if a little anxious about those spuds.

Meanwhile, my youngest, Donald, and his mates are earning for their summer revelries by picking samphire from a local tidal salt marsh. After a few failed attempts to mechanise the painstaking task, they have returned to scissors and garden shears; on a good day, they manage just 15kg each in the six to eight hours between tides when the beds are accessible. Given the small quantities,
samphire will probably be an ‘extra’ only too. Wild marsh samphire (not to be confused with the cultivated stuff that is airfreighted in year round) is only around for about six weeks before the stems become woody. Grab it while you can – samphire’s tangy saltiness is delicious with scrambled eggs and fish.

Guy Singh-Watson

Guy’s news: The day has come

After 12 years of thought, debate and prevarication, we become 74% employee owned on Friday 8th. There will be a huge party on the day; our customer services line will be closed from 1pm so everyone can celebrate. And on Monday, assuming they don’t sack me, I will come to work as one of 650 co-owners. Amongst all the signings, meetings and legal documentation, I am tearful, grumpy and awash with churning emotions – but doubt is not one of them.

I am convinced most people are kinder, less greedy, more creative, more thoughtful and can contribute more and be more productive than our institutions allow them to demonstrate. The best indication of business efficiency (and most valid prediction of future success) is getting the best out of people while giving the most back; return on capital is a poor, short-term proxy. I want to be part of an organisation that helps us be the best version of ourselves – that facilitates and grows people, rather than  undermining their humanity by appealing to ignoble sentiments, as capitalism too often does.

I could sell to the highest bidder and use the money to support good causes (the Bill & Melinda model), but I have nagging doubts about charity and would prefer to embed the changes I want to see in everyday life. To quote Ghandi: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change… We need not wait to see what others do.” The popular paraphrase, be the change you want to see in the world, leaves out the critical advice not to wait for others.

So, this Friday we will take Ghandi’s advice and get on with it. Time might prove me hopelessly idealistic, but I don’t think so; over the last year we have been working towards a more inclusive, human style of management, and the signs are so good that even our more militaristically minded managers are embracing the change. It feels as if an oppressive cloud is already lifting and a new dawn, full of exciting possibility, is revealing itself. In the end, the most critical factor is confidence: in each other and in our shared humanity; the confidence to be our whole selves, and not to wait for others to lead the way.

Those with the time and interest can now read Guy’s full ‘Founder’s Wishes’ statement at riverford.co.uk/founders-wishes

Guy’s news: An experiment in benign neglect

We have started cutting pak choi, basil, salad onions and salad leaves, with lettuce, spinach and chard still a week away. In most years we would now be emerging from the Hungry Gap, but with planting delayed by a wet spring, the pack house remains depressingly heavy on imports; some from our French farm, but more from our Spanish growers, and some from further afield.

25 years ago, the hardcore veg box pioneers stopped delivering from March to June – but that wasted the lovely end-of-season UK veg like purple sprouting broccoli, leeks, cauliflowers and rhubarb that were available. Frustration with having to top our boxes up with expensive, poor quality imports, combined with my overconfidence as a grower, drove me to buying a farm in France to grow the stuff myself. Climatic research and many visits suggested that we could steal four to six weeks’ harvesting by going 250 miles south, and staying close to the winter warmth of the Atlantic. That put us in the sunny Vendée region; about the same distance from Devon as the Fens. In the end, the project has worked out well – but not without some expensive, humbling failures in the early years.

Managing a business 250 miles away, with only a very limited grasp of a different language, law and culture, has led me to question what effective management is. In the early years I would dash around on the first day of a visit giving instructions: water this, plough that in, get those crop covers off. During my visit last week I looked, listened and contemplated my purpose. The less I visit, the better the team seems to do – perhaps because they have space to grow. I am astonished by their appetite for learning and innovation. I used to think that was my job, but now I find investments being evaluated, and new crops, varieties and growing techniques being tried; it’s me who is doing the learning. Relationships and roles are fluid, almost anarchic, but decision making is fast and efficient. There is one small office, which is usually empty; most decisions are made in the field, over a coffee or a beer at the end of the day.

Could it be that the most important part of management is knowing when to get out of the way – and its most common failing the underestimation of people’s capability to find fulfilment by managing themselves?

Guy Singh-Watson

5 asparagus recipes to enjoy this spring

Tender, sweet and delicate – the flavour of English asparagus just can’t be beaten. For an organic farmer though, asparagus is the ultimate challenge; weeds being the problem. Asparagus’ tall wispy foliage never casts enough shade to supress weeds, while its unruly growth habit makes row cultivation difficult. For the cook however, it is a delight and an iconic marker of the start of another season.

Our top tip for prepping asparagus is to hold the stalk at either end and bend it gently. It will break naturally at the point where the stalks become woody. There’s no need to waste the bases – they add a lovely flavour to homemade stock.

Here are our top 5 recipe picks to make the most of this seasonal star.

Asparagus, Spinach & Lentil Salad with Hazelnuts & Wootton White


This is a simple and nourishing dish, making a veg hero of asparagus. A bed of lentils and new potatoes are topped with roasted asparagus and one of our favourite cheeses, Wootton White, a British sheep’s cheese that’s made in the same way as feta, for a tangy flourish. Toasted hazelnuts finish it off for a satisfying crunch.

See the full Asparagus, Spinach & Lentil Salad with Hazelnuts & Wootton White recipe.

Asparagus, Potato & Spelt Pizza with Courgette & Rocket Salad


New potatoes, asparagus, red onion, courgette, rosemary and more top this satisfying spring pizza. A very hot oven and a restrained hand with the toppings are the key to a good end result. The temptation is to load it with all kinds of goodies, but the deeper the toppings, the soggier the result and the longer the cooking time. We suggest turning the toppings in a dash of oil so that they roast on the pizza rather than scorch in the intense heat.

See the full Asparagus, Potato & Spelt Pizza with Courgette & Rocket Salad recipe.

Risotto Primavera


A classic Italian dish, using any seasonal spring veg. Here we’ve chosen asparagus, broad beans and spring onions, adding a fresh herby hit to finish off the dish. The onion, celery and carrot trinity are known in Italian as ‘soffritto’ (literally, ‘slow-fried’); they give a good flavour base to any risotto, soup or stew. The two minute wait at the end, stirring in butter and Parmesan to finish is known as the ‘mantecura’; it adds the final creamy touch to the dish.

See full Risotto Primavera recipe.

Asparagus & Portobello Noodles


A quick, satisfying bowl of egg noodles in a soy and hoisin sauce, with ginger, garlic and chilli and seasonal veg asparagus. Portobello mushrooms, cashew nuts and coriander finish it off nicely. The cooking for this dish is done at such a pace that it is vital to have all your ingredients prepared and to hand before you start, preferably in the order they are to be used.

See full Asparagus & Portobello Noodles recipe.

Asparagus & Perl Las Blue Tart


This vegetarian tart pairs asparagus with many of its foodie friends; blue cheese, eggs, nuts, fennel and citrus. We’ve suggested serving them with a fennel, orange and hazelnut salad, but any salad you have to hand would work.

See full Asparagus & Perl Las Blue Tart recipe.

Atlantic ales – a gingery summer ale and a hoppy pocketful of sunshine

Over the years, we’ve scoured Britain for the best organic beers and ciders from small independent breweries. Our bottle shop is now looking full, varied and flavoursome… we’re always keeping an eye out for exciting new offerings though. The latest to catch our attention: Atlantic Brewery, based in our Devon farm’s neighbouring county Cornwall. Here’s a short blog to introduce the very worthy new additions to our shelves.

Atlantic Brewery was set up by Stu Thomson in 2005, when, in a career-changing move, he started home-brewing in the garage on his farm near Newquay. Stu’s aim was to prove that unfined, vegan and organic ale could be delicious, refined and exciting. 13 years on and Atlantic Brewery is now also Atlantic Distillery, with a thriving orchard and hop field, organic certification, over ten different beers, six gins and soon, two vodkas.

Our first choice is Atlantic Gold, a year-round summer ale spiced with ginger. We love its light, refreshing flavour. It was the brewery’s first commercial brew, inspired by a ginger-spiced ale that Stu came across while travelling in New Zealand, made by a brewery called Monteith. Atlantic Gold is brewed using only pale and wheat malts, which gives it a subtle biscuit malt flavour, and goes excellently with BBQ and spicy food.

Our second new offering is Atlantic Azores, a pale ale with a blend of English and American hops, balancing light, grassy bitterness with grapefruit and orange notes. Stu was inspired to make this brew when he first heard the term ‘mid-Atlantic’ to describe a fusion of English- and American-style pale ales. He loved the idea of balancing the vibrancy of new world hops with the refinement of English pale ale. He chose the name Azores to emphasise the point, and describes it as “a hoppy pocketful of sunshine in a glass.”

Atlantic Azores drinks very well with dishes you might have a dry white wine with, like fresh Italian pasta, pizza, tapas, and full-flavoured fish such as monkfish.

When he’s not brewing, Stu is a very good DJ and an avid collector of rare funk and soul records. We hope you’ll enjoy his beer as much we do.

Shop organic beer here.

Guy’s news: Recipe boxes, carthorses & unicorns

It’s hard being a carthorse grazing with unicorns. 30 years of learning our trade and patiently reinvesting profits have served Riverford well, but are we out of step with the herd? Looking around our field, I find us surrounded by a new and impatient breed of business: hungry for growth, and backed by even hungrier private capital. The combination is explosive, and makes scary company for an old nag used to plodding along alone.

For the more grounded among you, a ‘unicorn’ is a privately owned startup company valued at more than $1 billion; think Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Dropbox and Pinterest. They call them unicorns because they are so vanishingly rare – but that doesn’t stop a generation of techy wannabes dreaming of being the next Mark Zuckerberg. Home delivery of food ordered over the internet, and recipe boxes in particular, are seen as high-growth areas ripe for unicorn status; Farmdrop, Gousto, HelloFresh and the like vye with the more traditional mammoths like Amazon/Whole Foods and Ocado.

Having declared that Riverford will be sold not to venture capitalists, but to its hard-working, modestly paid staff, we have no access to the cash sloshing around the global economy looking to grow on the back of the next big thing. Instead we must make a profit before we can invest. That means we stick to what we know, don’t spend much on marketing, and look after our long-term customers rather than discounting to tease in new ones; in short, we plod. That might mean we get left behind, worrying about growing veg rather than share value. But it may also mean that those unicorns all chase themselves round the field faster and faster, running in ever smaller circles, until poof! All that is left is a cloud of smoke and some stardust… and we can all go back to our carrots.

Before they got me thinking about unicorns, I meant to write about our organic recipe boxes. We don’t advertise much, but they really are the best. You can now choose whichever recipes you fancy each week: 1, 2, 3 or more, including new vegan options. We’ll deliver everything bar the salt and pepper for your chosen recipes. All the joys of cooking with good ingredients, with none of the waste or the faff of planning.

Guy Singh-Watson

5 reasons to order a Riverford recipe box

Whether you’re short on time, stuck in a recipe rut, or want to eat well without the fuss of planning and shopping, our organic recipe boxes are a simple and inspiring way to cook.

We’ve recently refreshed the range, adding vegan options, and the ability to mix and match recipes. Here are 5 good reasons to order a Riverford recipe box:

It will transform your cooking
Choose from 12 weekly changing recipes written by the cooks based on our Devon farm. Our veg nerd chefs, Kirsty, Val and Bob, draw their inspiration from the seasonal veg growing on the farm to write inspiring, creative and original recipes, so you’ll cook something new every time.

It’s faff free
Every box comes with all the ingredients you need measured out, step-by-step recipe cards and helpful cooking tips. All the joy of cooking, none of the hassle.

It’s 100% organic with 0% waste
Over 30 years’ experience of growing and cooking goes into your box. All our fresh, seasonal ingredients are organic. We send you the exact amount you need, so you won’t end up throwing anything away, or with endless half pots of this and that cluttering your kitchen.

You can order what you like, whenever you like
Choose from any number of 1-12 recipes to feed two people, as often or little as you like, with the option of adding any other items from your weekly shopping list (veg, fruit, dairy, milk, kitchen cupboard) to your order.

Delivery is free
And even if you’re not in, you can place your order and know you’ll be coming home to an evening of hassle free cooking and an inspiring home cooked meal.

See upcoming recipes, find out more and order here.