Guy’s news: Stunted growth, spotty sprouts & Sevilles

It’s wild, wet and windy out there. The sun, when we see it, barely reaches the north-facing fields even at midday. If I were a bear, I would find a warm cave and take a nap. Nothing grows in the first two weeks of January, but the stunt doesn’t last long. By the end of the month, kales, leeks and cabbages will begin to grow again as the days start to draw out and the noon sun starts to climb. On our French farm, just 200 miles south, we’ll be planting lettuces before the end of the month. I can’t explain it, but even growers in areas like southern California, where their winter is similar to our summer, avoid sowing in early January. A druid might put it down the need for solar rebirth; a bear might take it as a chance for a nap.

I once got berated as a heartless bully by a number of you for being unforgiving about the repeated failures, and consequent lack of quality, of one of our cauliflower growers (Mr M for those who remember). I ate humble pie, apologised, and we went on buying his caulis, but it made no difference in the end; he continued to hope for the best rather than weed his crop, and went bust soon after. It might have been kinder to be harder sooner; it is a hard judgement to know when to stop working with a grower. Riverford is extraordinary within our industry for the long-term relationships we have with suppliers. It’s something I feel very proud of and hope survives me, but sometimes the farm or the farmer is wrong for the crop and no amount of ethics or support will change the inevitable outcome; it just prolongs the agony and undermines other growers. If you were one of the 20% of customers who had to trim small, spotty Brussels sprouts this year, I am sorry; it was the third year of poor sprouts from this grower, but we won’t give up on him quite yet.

On a lighter note, to mark two more successful long-term relationships, the first blood oranges from Sicily and Sevilles from Ave Maria Farm in Mairena del Alcor have arrived and are as excellent as in previous years. Now is the time to make marmalade. You can even cook alongside me on our YouTube channel if you need a little guidance.

Guy Singh-Watson

39 responses to “Guy’s news: Stunted growth, spotty sprouts & Sevilles

  1. Love your articles, Guy! Yes, we did have sprouts that were rather hard work. As a newish customer it did give me pause, I have to say. Why am I buying this stuff, I thought? Do I carry on, or not? Still debating.

    • Peter and Susan Lane

      Sue, carry on. We’ve been with Riverford for 13 years. There’s been the odd glitch with quality over that time but overall the taste, quality and value for money of Riverford produce is rarely beaten by others. Peter and Susan, Bedford

  2. Really enjoyed this article.

  3. I have to say that I have never tasted sprouts like this before, they were delicious. I don’t mind them being spotty in that case.

  4. The Blood Oranges are superb! As are the potatoes and carrots, the only things I have tried so far today.

  5. Sadly most of my sprouts in the Christmas week box were not edible, mostly too small to have peeled and survived cooking or very badly damaged, many were rotten in the middle of the net as it had been tied so tightly airflow was non existent. The ones we did rescue were tasty though.

  6. I usually don’t like brussel sprouts but enjoyed the first batch (they were called something else…tops) ,absolutely delicious). Love your veg. As a child ,living in France ,we used to eat disformed, uneven fruit and veg but they were the tastiest.

  7. Who really cares if you gotta peel sprouts a little when they taste so great. I shop Riverford for the organic products which taste great. Sometimes the quality is lower but rarely… Few tatty leaves don’t put me off!

  8. M husband tells me that his sprouts were delicious (I detest the things – sorry!) The spottiness or otherwise made no odds.
    Your vegetables are always flavoursome and much appreciated.

  9. Unfortunately our sprouts came in a polythene bag, they had probably been packed wet and stank when the bag was opened so went straight to compost.

  10. Well I had the spotty sprouts but they were absolutely and wholly edible and tasty. I didn’t bother trying to peel off the spotty bits and just cooked them, no complaints and they were fab in my bubble and squeak.

  11. I had the whole Christmas meal delivered – turkey and all the veggies, salad, fruit and cheese. Every last bit was fabulous – just used the last leeks and carrots to make organic soup. There really is no comparison when you consider the flavours from Riverford produce compared to supermarket offerings.

  12. We too had out turkey and veggies and fruit arrive in wonderful Riverford boxes. I bought some veg bags from Lakeland a coyole of years ago ans always decant the green veg into them asap. I hav3 just finished a cabbage which was delivered three weeks ago! The sprouts were a bit spotty but very tasty and the carrots ar3 always a joy!!!

  13. Dejana Williams

    Had a spotty sprouts and love them. So far happy with your veggies and like that you’re giving your grower a third chance.
    Love reading your newsletters, keep them coming!😂

  14. I like the new wider range for the small veg box. I usually love the potatoes but was disappointed today in their flavour when cooked on their own. But my leek and potato and onion soup turned out well. I still have to make merry with carrots, a red pepper, and the remaining onions, potatoes and chard.

  15. Annalisa Cinque

    We just finished a bag of sprouts which were in the plastic bag, and they were delicious, meaty and a little spotty but nothing that altered the wonderful flavour. I have been wholly satisfied with our boxes each month.

  16. I am also a new customer, but I thought that the sprouts were so much tastier than grocery store ones that I didn’t mind the spottiness! My husband thinks he hates sprouts, but he actually enjoyed these (cooked to the recipe that was included – thanks!)

  17. Sadly I missed out on sprout-gate, but the potatoes in my small box this week were amazing, thank you.

  18. We were out visiting and being fed for most of the Christmas period, and have only just eaten the sprouts from the Christmas box. They were a little spotty, but as always were delicious!

  19. Good to know there have been some general concerns about the quality of the sprouts delivered Christmas week and it’s not just me being picky. Mine were as you say rather pale and spotty (teenage sprouts?) but also the flavour was not great. I thought it was just that the Wed delivery was too early for eating on the Monday. On reflection perhaps in today’s world of unrealistic high expectation of perfection I WAS just being picky. Am with you Guy on persevering with your growers who fail to achieve the necessary standard, especially if the failure is not obviously due to poor practise in cultivation terms. Also, better a mouthful of spotty sprout than foul chemicals!

  20. I ordered a turkey, full veg and wine for the first time this Christmas. I loved all the veg, it really didn’t matter about the spotty sprouts, they tasted delicious, the best I have tasted. The wine was superb, especially the Rioja. I will definitely order that again next year. I was a little disappointed in the turkey, but that was mainly my fault. It was too big for two people and I could hardly lift it. I work in pounds and didn’t translate the kg correctly. Next year I will go for a chicken.
    Overall, very very happy with the Christmas boxes.

  21. We were very happy with the small sprouts. As were our chicken who had the outer spotty leaves cooked in their warm mash. Things don’t have to always be perfect – rarely has any veg we’ve grown ourselves been perfect. The important things for us are flavour and freshness and your grower’s little sprouts were just right. Being so small, they steamed really quickly which may have added to the deliciousness.

  22. I don’t mind when some things are are smaller or spottier than theoretically possible, as long as they are fresh and taste good. The sprouts made no particular impression either way. I love my Riverford veg.
    To the lady whose turkey was too big for 2 – we are 3 and we really enjoyed the stuffed turkey leg on Christmas day, which is a satisfying-looking roasting joint, does not take long to cook, and still gave some delicious cold meat to have with cold gammon later in the week.

  23. I’m confused.. Did you send different Brussel sprouts to different areas? Every single bag of sprouts I have had has been delicious and removing a few outer leaves as my mother did back in the 1950’s was no problem at all. What spots? I didn’t see any. Maybe I was just lucky! Either way I shall continue adding them to my order until they aren’t available any more. In my view the tastiest sprouts I’ve had in a long time. I bet the ones I’m eating now, yes it’s breakfast time, perfect time for sprouts, are the last of the season so I shall chew the last few really slowly.

  24. All my Christmas veg was delicious, no spotty sprouts here. I also ordered the Boxing Day Box and it was amazing, as was the really tasty cheese.

  25. My sprouts were big and not spotty. Ate some at Christmas. Bubble and squeak boxing day. Rest lasted in their plastic bag till new year and they were good too.

  26. I would personally be more concerned if my organic veggies were uniformally perfect. If I wanted perfect looking veg I would still be buying chemically drenched supermarket ones. I have been a customer for about 2 months and can’t believe the flavours of all I have bought. Lovely.

  27. I have to say I wasn’t impressed with the sprouts, as by the time I’d peeled them there wasn’t a lot left, however the taste was great, I had some of the satsumas and they are tiny and delicious, but will have to eat them quicker or store them better as some developed green mould. Both lots of apples have been absolutely wonderful. I love small sweet British apples, they are also a great size for the grandchildren.

  28. I didn’t think the sprouts were that bad!! As per previous comments – I would be suspicious if they were perfect! The beef and chicken we had was amazing by the way.

  29. Deborah Davenport

    The sprouts I received were absolutely fine – and absolutely delicious when shredded and sautéed with some chestnuts. We also had a turkey again this year: simply the best.

  30. Didn’t really notice if sprouts were spotty but they were very tasty nonetheless. All our Riverford produce at Christmas was up to the usual high standards. The turkey was superb, still got two lots of frozen leftovers in the freezer and the carcass helped to make a lovely soup.

  31. My sprouts were excellent and needed hardly any preparation. I used a recipe from the irritating Nigella’s Christmas programme, that involved sauteeing a finely sliced leek and some garlic in a little butter with some chopped preserved lemons, then adding some cinnamon and the halved sprouts, then adding just a little water, seasoning, and cooking for about five minutes. They balanced the richness of the turkey beautifully.

  32. My sprouts from Riverford were delicious. I had some from M & S which looked superb -shiny and large. They tasted horrible and I threw the rest away.
    Keep up the good work Riverford – all your produce tastes better than non-organic.

  33. Yes, our Christmas sprouts were small and spotty and took a lot of peeling – but very tasty, closest I’ve tasted to some I grew myself one year. We stir-fried them with ginger and they went down a treat. I wonder how many other people eat sprouts throughout their season; we do, and all the others we’ve had from Riverford this winter have been large and unblemished, so much easier to deal with but I have to say not quite as sweet. To the people complaning about sweaty/slimy/rotten sprouts, I’ve learned not to store them for too long in the fridge – they are tastiest and miles easier to prep if eaten within a couple of days of delivery.

  34. I love your brussels who cares about spots they are so much better than any supermarkets produce. I had to buy a few things over the xmas period at the supermarket as I missed a box as no delivery. It makes me appreciate my veg box so much.

  35. I loved my sprouts too , as well as all my other Christmas goodies , all from Riverford . I have so much respect for Guy and all of you and have been a customer since you began but this is the first time I’ve felt uneasy about one of Guy’s posts . I have no problem with you holding your suppliers to high standards , nor even to your stopping dealing with those that don’t meet your standards . That’s your privilege and livelihood after all . But it seems so out of character to discuss someone in an open forum , especially with the hint that their services might be dispensed with . Thanks again for keeping me supplied with such great food and drink and for your great customer service .

  36. It was a relief to read about the sprout issue. Mine were pretty grim and I was quite shocked because the Christmas sprouts are usually beautiful. They used to come on their stalks and I wish they still did. But it just reminded me of why I buy organic and how rare it is to get a dud offering.

    • I too must have been one of the 20% who were unlucky with the sprouts. I have used Riverford for many years and agree it’s very rare for this to happen. That said, my experience of spending ages on Christmas Eve/Christmas morning peeling and ending up with sprouts not much bigger than peas was not something I want to repeat!

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