Author Archives: Riverford

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.

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.

What is the Hungry Gap?

From time to time, you might hear us refer to the Hungry Gap. This 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.

It all comes down to the UK’s latitude. We sit right at the geographical limit for many spring crops, which would not survive our cold winter temperatures if grown any earlier. At the same time, as the days warm up into spring, many hardy winter crops like sprouts, kales, and caulis ‘bolt’ (abandon leaf growth to start producing flowers and seeds). The result is unproductive fields – and sometimes, rather repetitive boxes! In fact, our 100% UK veg box has to stop completely for a few weeks every year.

If it’s such a dire time, why hasn’t everyone heard more about the Hungry Gap before – or noticed its impact on their plates?

Airfreight and artificial heat

The name ‘the Hungry Gap’ harks back to a time when an empty field really meant going hungry. Traditionally, the gap had to be bridged with a spartan diet of cabbage, old potatoes, and fruits preserved during kinder months. These days, however, very few people eat a local, seasonal diet; the supermarkets can easily top up their shelves with even more imported produce, or crops grown in the UK under heated glass, and no one need notice the difference.

Of course, we don’t want anyone going hungry – but unfettered airfreight and artificial heat isn’t an environmentally responsible solution. Over the years, Riverford has worked out a pretty good system of workarounds and intelligent compromises, allowing us to keep our veg boxes varied, fresh and full without sacrificing our founding values…

Finding a better way

Like the supermarkets, we rely more on imported produce during the Hungry Gap. However, whether in the UK or abroad, we only work with small-scale organic farmers that we know, trust, and look after for the long term. A few of us recently went out to visit some of our growers in Spain, who have been keeping our shelves stocked with broad beans, garden peas and more… read all about it in Luke’s blog.

Importing isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s far less damaging than growing the same crops in the UK using artificial heat. Take the example of tomatoes. The huge amounts of heat used in glass hothouses is produced by burning gas or oil. For every kilo of tomatoes this way, 2-3 kilos of CO2 are released into the atmosphere. Trucking tomatoes over from Spain uses just a tenth of the carbon compared with growing them in the UK using heat. It’s not perfect, but it’s the least damaging option.

Our imports are always brought over by land or sea, never by air. Airfreight causes 40-50 times the CO2 emissions of sea freight.

Guy’s French farm

Seven years ago, Guy decided on an interesting addition to his armoury against the Hungry Gap: he’d buy his own farm in France. Le Boutinard is 10 miles from the coast, in the Vendée region of Western France. He chose the situation very carefully: the light and rainfall there are just right for producing a bounty of colourful spring crops that are ready to harvest just a few vital weeks ahead of the UK. It’s environmentally friendly, too: by road, Le Boutinard is the same distance from our Devon farm as the Fens.

Watch Guy’s video to learn more about his reasons for buying the French farm – and the learning curve he’s faced along the way:

Using our imagination

As well as all these solutions from overseas, we’ve learned to be a bit more resourceful with what greenery we can gather on our own shores. Foraged wild garlic and bitter dandelion leaves both offer some welcome pep for palates that are dulled with winter stodge.


On our Devon farm, we also grow lots of Hungry Gap kale. The clue’s in the name: this reliable variety is at its best when the rest of its kale-y cousins have bolted, and has been helping people bridge the gap for generations.

The Hungry Gap is on its way in the next few weeks. We have planned carefully, and hope you’ll enjoy an interesting, good quality and bountiful mix in your box. In the meanwhile, for a tasty little glimmer of homegrown green, why not order some Hungry Gap kale – it’s available online now.

New Easter cheeses; handmade and full of flavour

We’ve spent years scouring the country for the best handmade organic cheeses and are pretty confident we offer some of the best tasting cheeses around from a range of small scale producers.

We’ve introduced two rather special cheeses for Easter. One from High Weald Dairy in West Sussex, and one from Bath Soft Cheese.

We’ve worked with High Weald Dairy for six years now. The family run dairy supply us with organic halloumi and sheep’s cheeses, and we’re excited to now introduce their St Giles cow’s cheese. It’s an English equivalent to the continental style Saint Paulin or Port Salut style of cheese found in France. It’s a semi-soft creamy cheese, with a rich, buttery texture, a creamy mild flavour and a gorgeous edible orange rind.

The cheese gets its name from the Norman village church in Horsted Keynes where High Weald Dairy is based. It takes eight hours to make, but ten weeks to mature, and uses almost 9 litres of whole organic milk to make 1 kilo of cheese. After grading, the orange coating (made from organic carrots!) is applied, and the cheese is ready to go. It’s previously won Best English and Best British Cheese at the World Cheese Awards.

Our second addition is Wyfe of Bath, from the Bath Soft Cheese company. The Padfield family have milked at Park Farm in Kelston for four generations and made cheese using traditional methods for almost 30 years.

Wyfe of Bath is a semi-hard cheese, echoing the types of cheese farmers’ wives would make with the soured milk. It is creamy and nutty and harks back to Old England, hence the Chaucer reference. They handmake it using the traditional method of placing the curd in cloth-lined baskets, which gives the final product a wonderful basket shape.

Try our special Easter additions for a show-stopping cheeseboard to finish your bank holiday feast.

Add St Giles to your order
Add Wyfe of Bath to your order

Meet Patrick, the new Riverford Field Kitchen head chef

We recently found ourselves with a big role to fill in our farm restaurant, The Riverford Field Kitchen, as we said goodbye to head chef, James Dodd, who returned to his home town of Liverpool.

It can be a challenge to find chefs who are as obsessed with vegetables as we are, and even more so when the predecessor was such a veg nerd that they had a whole arm tattooed in dedication to the green stuff, but we’re delighted to have found one, in the form of Patrick Hanna, whose Riverford journey first began in 2008.

“When I moved from Belfast to London, I took a job washing dishes in this weird pub turned restaurant in Islington, serving organic food.  The pub was called the Duke of Cambridge.  This led to a short stint at the Riverford Field Kitchen. I had no idea what an amazing journey of fascination with food and farming this would get going.  Ten years on, I’m back and excited to be cooking these big, heart warming dishes again.”

After that initial year, Patrick’s food journey went worldwide with stints cooking on a farm in Spain, at a biodynamic vineyard in Australia and on fishing boats. This experience of cooking at source ultimately circled back to where it all began, here on our south Devon farm.

As well as the nostalgic feeling The Field Kitchen and Devon give Patrick, another love for the restaurant stems from the unique connection the food served has with the surrounding fields. Coming up with a daily changing menu dependent on what is being harvested at the time is a daunting task for many, but Patrick welcomes it and is excited by the challenge.

One of his fondest food memories is picking apart an artichoke as a child and dipping it in vinaigrette, not really knowing what to do, but enjoying the tactile experience and its resemblance to its organic form. He believes in the power of simplicity and quality ingredients, and hates food that is unrecognisable from its natural form, specifically referencing cubed carrots.

It seems like a return to Riverford was meant to be for Patrick, especially as someone who shares a unique love of artichokes and cardoons with founder Guy Singh-Watson. Either that or our big, colourful sharing platters of organic veg and infamous sticky toffee pud are too good to stay away from!

Want to avoid ultra processed foods?

Cook from scratch!

The media has been abuzz today with new research from France suggesting a link between ultra processed foods and an increased risk of cancer. For now, the study should be treated with a bit of caution; the researchers themselves said their results ‘need to be confirmed by other large-scale studies’. But is it really news to any of us that an ultra processed diet isn’t the healthiest choice?

Riverford has long promoted the joys of cooking from scratch with fresh organic veg, dairy and meat – nourishing food with a wonderful flavour, and no hidden nasties.

What are ultra processed foods?

Michael Pollan put it best: ‘Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food.’

To write a full ultra processed foods list would take a very long time, as they make up so much of what lines supermarket shelves – and 50% of the average UK family’s diet! But broadly speaking, ultra processed foods are made with ingredients you wouldn’t find in your own kitchen: artificial additives, preservatives, flavourings and colourings. They also often contain high levels of sugar, fat and salt. Think crisps, chocolate bars, fizzy drinks, processed meats like chicken nuggets and meatballs, and instant foods such as soups, noodles, and frozen readymeals.

Avoiding ultra processed foods

The easiest and most satisfying way to avoid ultra processed foods is to cook from scratch. You know exactly what goes into your food, can pack every plate with fresh organic veg and other good-for-yous – and a meal always tastes better when it’s made by your own fair hand.

Cooking from scratch is a good start – and choosing organic ingredients is even better. The Soil Association’s organic standards (some of the highest in the world) protect consumers and farmers alike from a number of potentially harmful chemicals. Organic farmers like Riverford never use artificial pesticides or weedkillers on our crops. Certification also strictly prohibits GM crops, hydrogenated fats and controversial artificial colourings and preservatives.

Riverford makes cooking fresh organic meals from scratch easy. Our organic veg boxes are packed with different seasonal varieties every week, plus simple, inspiring recipes to help you make the most of all that good stuff. Don’t have time to plan? Try an organic recipe box, with easy step-by-step recipes and measured quantities of all the 100% organic ingredients you need.

Steering clear of ultra processed foods has never been easier – or tastier.

References
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43064290
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/feb/14/ultra-processed-foods-may-be-linked-to-cancer-says-study
https://www.soilassociation.org/organic-living/organic-food/

Feed the Birds with a Free Riverford Sunflower


If you’ve been part of Riverford for a while, you might have had one of our organic sunflower birdfeeders before. They’re back, and we’d like you to enjoy one as a little gift from us. There isn’t enough for everyone, so it’s first come, first served. Don’t miss out – add yours now!

Guy first grew glowing yellow fields of sunflowers on his French farm in the Vendée in 2015, hoping to make his own organic sunflower oil. While watching the local wildlife thrive off the crop, he had an idea. Instead of making oil, he would dry the flowerheads and offer them to British birds.

The sunflowers went down a treat – and not just with birds. People sent us snaps of everything from wild birds to chickens, pet hamsters, and the odd cheeky squirrel munching their way through this organic snack. Keepers at the Monkey Sanctuary in Looe even said they made a great enrichment activity for the monkeys! It was so wonderful to see creatures great and small feasting on a natural organic treat, Guy has grown them again every year since.

Thinking of joining in with the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch from Saturday 27th – Monday 29th January? A Riverford sunflower is just the thing to lure out a few more feathered friends.

We would love to see photos of any birds and beasts enjoying the flower. Please share at facebook.com/riverford and twitter.com/riverford using #riverfordsunflower.

For inspiration, have a look at some of our favourite pictures from last year below…

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Win a stack of organic treats & blender, worth over £500

Here at Riverford, we really know our veg. Founded by Guy Watson (the Soil Association’s Best Organic Farmer 2017), we’ve been farming organically in Devon for 30 years: carefully selecting varieties for flavour, and looking after the soil, wildlife, and water sources.

However, organic doesn’t just stop at food and drink. This January, we’re teaming up with our friends at Pai Skincare to bring you a whole host of ethical prizes. With our passion for organic food and Pai’s passion for organic skincare, it’s a match made in heaven.

Pai’s passion for organic skincare came from wanting to enable people to take control of their skin, instead of putting up with products that are full of irritants. For Pai (meaning ‘goodness’ in Maori), pure and transparent ingredients are essential; they are proud of the lengths they go to in letting people know exactly what’s in their products.

For your chance to win a month’s supply of Riverford juicing and veg boxes, as well as lots of organic Pai Skincare treats and a top-of-the-range Sage ‘The Boss’ blender, enter our competition now.

Cream for Christmas… with a little help from our friends

This Christmas, customers whose orders are delivered from Wash Farm in Devon might notice something a little different about their organic cream. The label will say Acorn Dairy instead of Riverford Dairy – and the tub will contain a little extra! Our usual cream will be back after Christmas. So why the temporary change?

You may have seen some slightly teasing articles in the media about France suffering a butter shortage and facing the terrible prospect of life without croissants (as the Guardian put it, ‘‘Sacré buerre’!). They’re not the only country whose dairy industry is going through a difficult time; cream (and so butter) is thin on the ground in the UK too. Supply has been just enough for this shortage not to be visible for most of the year… but as demand soars over the festive season, some dairies may hit the bottom of the churn.

In 2014/15, there was a dairy surplus. An excellent grass harvest all over the world meant that cows were flourishing, and the white stuff was flowing freely – driving prices down. At the same time, demand plummeted. This was thanks to an astonishingly complex web of international factors; everything from a dip in oil prices hitting Middle Eastern incomes, to Russia’s 2014 ban on European dairy imports and a downturn in the economies of Europe and China (the world’s biggest dairy importer), combined to leave dairy farmers with too much milk and no one to sell it to.

Naturally, dairy farmers put the brakes on. Production was cut down by 5-10%; many even quit the dairy industry during this very tough time. But now, just a short while later, the situation has reversed: demand for milk solids is heading sharply up again.

At home, possible health concerns about alternatives like margarine have brought once-demonised butter back into popularity, hailed as the more natural, less processed option. Globally, poor grass harvests in key dairy-producing countries like Australia and New Zealand, and the pound falling against the euro, have also made British cream more attractive to international buyers.

Unfortunately, the supply can’t just be turned back on overnight; it took a while to wind down, and will take a while to wind back up again. Many dairy farmers are now struggling to cope with excessive demand.

The Riverford Dairy has had enough to cover our customers’ needs throughout the year, but at Christmas, this demand rockets skywards. Splashed onto puddings and pies, swirled into bread sauce, whipped and spread thickly inside yule logs… We get through buckets more of the stuff than usual, and The Riverford Dairy won’t quite be able to cover it.

Luckily, our friends at Acorn Dairy have been able to step in and give us a hand! Acorn Dairy is an award-winning organic dairy in Darlington, owned and run by the Tweddle family since 1928. They supply delicious organic cream and more for our customers in the North and East of the country all year round. For Christmas week, they’ll kindly be supplying enough for everyone.

The cream is still 100% organic and of outstanding quality. The only differences are the Acorn Dairy packaging, and the size of the tub: you’ll enjoy 284ml instead of 250ml, for the same price!

We hope you enjoy your Acorn Dairy cream over Christmas. Our usual Riverford Dairy cream will be back in the new year.

To order your Acorn Dairy cream for Christmas week, just add Riverford Dairy cream to your basket as usual – Acorn Dairy cream will arrive on the day.

References

https://www.ft.com/content/1b93f92c-5ef8-11e6-bb77-a121aa8abd95
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/16/dairy-farmers-milk-prices-economy
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/07/butter-price-all-time-high-dairy-production-curdles

Pumpkin recipes

Every year the UK wastes around 18,000 tons of perfectly edible pumpkin flesh and seeds as the nation carves away to make spooky Halloween lanterns.

Like squash, pumpkin is sweet and warming and can be delicious if cooked in the right recipes. Here are a few veg-centric recipes to help turn your pumpkin waste into a tasty meal or treat.

For all of the below you can substitute pumpkin for squash if you need a little inspiration to use up your Squash Box.


Pumpkin Madeleines with Pumpkin Custard & Cinnamon Meringue
Unusual and slightly long winded but totally worth it. The meringue isn’t necessary but adds an impressive finish. All the elements can be made individually if you don’t want to tackle the whole recipe.
See recipe

 


Pumpkin Fritters with Romesco
These fritters are simple to prepare and the romesco is a delicious accompaniment, but can be substituted for a simple mayonnaise mixed with paprika and garlic. We like the romesco with a mix of nuts rather than using just almonds. Cashews add a creamy taste to the sauce.
See recipe

 


Roasted Pumpkin Salad with Pumpkin Seed Dukka, Sumac Red Onions, Wootton White, Pistachio & Pomegranate
This dish has a Middle Eastern feel to it and is a good way to use up pumpkin flesh and seeds. Wootton White is an English Greek style sheep’s cheese and can be substituted with feta.
See recipe

 


Thai Pumpkin Curry
Squash and pumpkin work well in a Thai curry as the coconut milk complements the sweetness of the veg and lemony flavours add a fresh flavour. Make sure you bruise the lemongrass by bashing it with a rolling pin to release the aromatic flavour. If you don’t fancy making the paste, you can buy it ready made.
See recipe