Guy’s Newsletter: more recipes & less mud

Our veg box scheme was founded on my blinkered assumption that most of our customers were like me, and grew up in a farm kitchen with a stock pot on the Rayburn, where mud was a way of life and dead animals hung in the larder. Over the years it has dawned on me that I was being a bit narrow-minded; even clean living urbanites with small kitchens like to eat veg and it is our job to help them, ideally without them losing the connection with where their food came from or those who grew it.

Long-standing customers will have noticed that there is now less mud in their boxes; one of our more obsessive recipients once weighed the earth over a few months and reported that we delivered an average of 112g of soil per week, and that he would rather we didn’t. Well we don’t any more, and even go as far as to wash the roots when excessive amounts of field hang on. We also trim the vegetables a bit more on the basis that fewer people make stock, and the organic matter is more of an asset in our fields than in your bins.

When I delivered the first boxes in the early ‘90s it quickly became apparent that many customers need a little help with more whacky veg, but also inspiration for the more familiar. The Riverford quarterly, then monthly, then weekly newsletter was born with recipes cribbed from Jane and Sophie Grigson, Elizabeth David and my mother, adapted and tested on my growing family and photocopied late at night. I even did the illustrations. Our first recipe book, The Riverford Farm Cook Book, followed in 2008 and was written with Jane Baxter, our first chef at the Field Kitchen. She is as opinionated about food as I am about farming; it won lots of awards and I am still very proud of it. Our second book, Everyday & Sunday, had some good recipes but too much cream and too many esoteric ingredients, so did little to make life easier for less experienced cooks. After many revisions and delays we now have two new books called Riverford Companions, designed to redress that balance: Spring & Summer Veg and Autumn & Winter Veg are very practical, focusing on quick and easy home cooking with a minimum of ingredients, implements and stages. If you have found yourself asking, “What is it? What can I make with it?” then they should provide the answer. Visit the website for more details.

Guy Watson

6 responses to “Guy’s Newsletter: more recipes & less mud

  1. I’ll be sad to see less soil on my roots in one respect, I found that carrots keep especially well when still covered in a bit of dirt. I always used to tip any of the soil back onto the ground, knowing that there is a world wide lack of top soil these days.
    I hope you don’t wet too many of the vegetables. Nightmare to keep them long once this has been done. Kind regards Leigh

  2. Leigh has taken some of my words right out of my mouth, particularly regarding roots being happier when they are properly dressed, in mud. I like my vegetables to have that dirty, fresh-from-the-field allure and cannot understand the appeal of plastic looking produce. Also, please don’t remove too many trimmings. I do need them for making stocks and love the dark green outer leaves on a lot of vegetables, even preferring the tops of leeks to the bottoms.

    But more exciting than muddy veg is hearing that the Autumn & Winter cookbook will be available soon. I am thrilled! The Spring and Summer book is absolute favourite in our kitchen, already starting to look tatty through frequent use. It’s still handsome though, the photography is beautiful and I haven’t found a dud recipe yet. Your recipe boxes are super too, my children keep insisting on them.
    Many thanks and good wishes. cicely

  3. I used to find it very amusing to have the kitchen covered in mud back when your tagline was “Our Farm on Your Table”!

  4. I agree with previous comments as I was rather dismayed to learn that the mud was disappearing. Like others for me the mud on carrots seems essential to keeping them fresh and usable for more than a couple of days. In fact it was one of the MAJOR incentives to buy from Riverford rather than other suppliers….as I so miss the cool storage facilities and mud covered veg of my youth with all the trimmings!

  5. Totally agree that carrots etc with their original soil last better than washed ones and come out looking much more fresh and clean than pre-washed ones when you give them a little scrub. I always pour the water, with any soil, on my tubs.
    I don’t “do” recipes, but it is useful to learn different techniques. I’ts nice to hear good comments about the new Riverford cook-books.

  6. Moshe Fullenwider


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