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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.

How do fields get their names?

By John Richards, who manages the fields on our Devon farm.

Every field in the countryside has a history, a story, and unique characteristics based on its location, soil type and topography. And when farmers walk around their land, each field will stimulate a wave of memories and feelings both good and bad – perhaps remembering a particularly fine crop, or the year when a crop was lost to weeds.

For example, last Friday afternoon, the team were out in our field Eastaway, planting pak choi in far from ideal conditions. Some plants were oversized due to the forced delays of the cold spring, and the claggy soil was not flowing well. I suddenly had a flashback to a similar situation in the same field in 2002; on that occasion the plants rooted out and produced quite a good crop. These experiences give us some hope that, despite the poor conditions, we may yet get some decent pak choi in 2018.

Fields may have been named after something either long gone or still there. We grew winter cabbages in a rented field near Buckfastleigh called Minefield. The old mineshaft was still there, long since filled in, but marked by a pile of rocks. It is likely to be associated with some extensive copper mining activity that used to take place at the nearby Brookwood Mine.

Well Pathfield is the field above the main road to our farm. It references a spring that still emerges out of the rock in the copse in the corner, supplying fresh water to the hamlet and farm.

When I was 18 I worked on a small 50-cow dairy herd near Ware in Hertfordshire. There was an intriguingly named field near the canal called The Cat and Monkey. Apparently, it was named after an old pub which fell into dereliction between the wars and has now completely disappeared.

Our 500-acre farm at Sacrewell near Peterborough has fields in an area that formed part of the strip-cultivated open medieval field system. Field names like Cottager’s Piece are based on the arable land being divided into a multitude of strips (or ‘selions’), each managed by different individuals, with the strips distributed around the whole land block. Strips were aggregated into furlongs, and these into fields. Short selions fitting into triangles between furlongs, tracks and paths were known as ‘gores’ and ‘butts’ – terms which are still used by country folk in the midlands to this day.

The same crops were grown by all the farmers on each furlong, and each field was left fallow (ploughed but not sown) every second, third or fourth year. The system was collective, and farmers shared some of the labours of cultivating each other’s strips. Between 1635 and 1720, most of these open fields were largely enclosed under the Inclosure Acts, essentially privatizing and replacing the strips with a grid of large, hedged, straight-edged fields.

Land changing hands is a vulnerable time when field names can be forgotten. When we took on a new 40-acre block of nearby land called Hills, it was split into 3 distinct fields, but we had no idea of the names. In haste I rather unimaginatively named them Hills Big, Hills Small and Hills Triangle. Later chatting to Pop, the dairy farm’s tractor driver, he could remember their original names and we subsequently changed them back to Barkingdon Pathfield, Great East and Barton Town respectively – a great improvement!

Field names often reflect their size, location or topography e.g. our fields Eastaway, West Park, Far Field or Big Field. The irony of Big Field is that it has been getting steadily smaller over the years as land has needed to be taken for developments like The Riverford Field Kitchen restaurant, barns, yards and car parks. The photograph was taken in June 1997 looking down on a much smaller and more compact site than we have now, with the vegetable beds running virtually right up to the barns (which are now our offices).

Wash farm, June 1997

To finish, I must share with you my all-time favourite field name. It was a rented field not far away, known as Dead Sheep field because that was what was in it when the farmers first took over their farm.

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.

A little plastic packaging update

Our packaging technologist, Robyn, has written a little update on some recent changes that you might have spotted in your box. Read Robyn’s previous blog post to find out more about her role at Riverford.

You may have seen a few changes to our packaging over the last few weeks. I thought I’d write a quick blog to let you know what we’ve changed, and why.

Ditching some plastic
Cucumbers, cauliflowers and romanescos bought separately (not as part of a veg box) are all now free from their plastic bags. We did some tests and found that, by and large, these items are well-enough protected by the cardboard veg boxes. They might be more at risk of the odd bump and bruise during handling, so we’ve put measures in place to make sure they are handled extra carefully.

We’re glad to have identified some unnecessary plastic – it’s another step on our journey towards reducing all our packaging. Over the course of the year, we expect to save a significant amount of plastic by not putting it on these popular veg. However, please be aware that at certain times of year cucumbers can be more prone to dehydration; in those cases, you may see the plastic bags return for a short time, to prevent spoilage and food waste.

No one likes a limp lettuce
I often get asked about salad and leafy greens – why are they packed in plastic rather than paper bags? Salad and leafy greens are examples of vegetables that dehydrate. If we were to use paper bags, the paper would very quickly draw moisture from the leaves, reducing its shelf life and quality, and ultimately leaving it inedible! By packing in plastic, we can prevent water loss – and thereby food waste.

Swiss chard bag test. These gorgeous greens will remain in bags due to the severe dehydration when tested without.

Why don’t we use biodegradable plastic?
We are currently looking at moving to biodegradable plastic bags – but with caution. There are some downsides to biodegradable plastics; before we use them, we need to make sure they are the right solution.

Here are the current main issues with biodegradable plastics:

1) Some don’t break down in home composting.
2) If land is being used to grow the crops used to make plastic (e.g. corn, often GM), then it isn’t being used to grow food.
3) Most biodegradable plastics don’t break down if they end up in the ocean. This creates the same problems as traditional plastic.
4) If biodegradable bags are mistakenly put into plastic recycling, then they can degrade the quality of the recycled plastic.

Not sure what to do with the plastic packaging you’ve received from us? Pop it in your box for your local veg team to take back, and we will recycle it at the farm.

Green tomato… beer?

A special new brew has recently been added to our shelves: Barnaby’s green tomato saison, made just for Riverford using our own surplus organic green tomatoes. How did this unusual – and very tasty – tipple come about?

Barnaby’s Brewhouse is a small organic craft brewery based at the Riverford Dairy’s Hole Farm in South Devon. It benefits from natural spring water that rises on the farm; the water has a very low mineral content and is therefore perfect for brewing organic craft lagers.

Barnaby’s Brewhouse has close ties with Riverford, having brewed special batches of ‘foraged beer’ for our award-winning Devon farm restaurant The Riverford Field Kitchen. Their crisp, refreshing pilsner lager and distinctively tinged Red Helles lager are both available in our online shop and have gone down a treat with customers.

After a grey and gloomy summer last year, we ended up with a glut of green tomatoes that just wouldn’t ripen. While visiting Barnaby and the team, we jokingly asked if they could use any green tomatoes in a brew?

Much to our surprise, the brewers rose to the challenge and came up with a recipe for a green tomato saison – almost certainly the first of its kind in the UK.

‘Saison’ is a Belgian farmhouse style of beer, so called because it was brewed at the end of the farming season when temperatures were ideal for fermentation. It had to be strong enough to last through the summer – when farmers were back working on the land – and so typically has an alcohol content between 5 and 8% ABV.

Traditionally, Saison beers have often been made with spices and botanicals; a range of fruit varieties still exist on the market including apricot, strawberry, raspberry and cherry. It is a very distinctive rustic beer, light yet earthy and spicy in flavour. Saison also typically has a high level of carbonation and is sometimes sold in champagne-like bottles.

Using green tomatoes in Barnaby’s saison gives it freshness and a hint of sourness. Because of the amount of fruit that is used, it also has a slightly wine-like quality. This means it pairs exceptionally well with a range of foods.

According to Garrett Oliver, author of The Brewmaster’s Table, it ‘… seems to go with almost everything. The combination of dynamic bitterness, scouring carbonation, bright aromatics, spicy flavours, pepper notes, dark earthy underpinnings and racy acidity gives these beers a hook to hang their hat on for a wide range of dishes.’

We’ve found it to be delicious with peppered steaks, Thai dishes, spicy sausages, creamy goats milk cheese – the list goes on and on. Give it a try and let us know what dishes you pair it with!

Barnaby’s green tomato saison is now available online – save 5% when you buy a case of 12.

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!

Not snow much waste….

It’s a new week and today there’s little resemblance to the winter wonderlands our organic farms became last week, just the odd muddy, slushy white spots dotted around the fields, and a welcome temperature of 7°C. Our south Devon farm was affected the most, when a combination of the ‘Beast from the East’ and Storm Emma left us with over 20cm of snow.

This meant we couldn’t make it to a lot of customers on Friday, and we’ve had a few warranted questions about what will happen to the veg that we were unable to deliver.

The good news is, because we hate food waste at any time of year, we have a good system in place to make sure every last carrot, apple or spud is put to good use by someone or in some way.

Luckily, the total amount of produce unable to be used in boxes has only ended up being about 6%, and we will filter this veg through our usual grade-out system, which includes:

Charity donations
Every week, local charities, including FoodCycle, collect grade-out veg for use in children’s centres, soup kitchens, community centres and refuges.

Our staff canteen and restaurants
A large percentage of our grade-out is used in our staff canteen, farm restaurant, The Riverford Field Kitchen, and at our London pub, The Duke of Cambridge in Islington.

Free veg for staff
Riverford staff eat very well! Not only do we enjoy gorgeous, organic, subsidised meals in the canteen, but we also enjoy grade out fruit and veg. There’s always a flurry of activity when there are strawberries or avocados to be had in the grade-out room!

The Riverford Dairy herd
Cows love our veg too, especially broccoli. With the Riverford Dairy just a stone’s throw away, the cows are very happy to eat the veg that really isn’t good enough for human mouths. We have to be careful mind; beetroot makes their milk pink, and onions and garlic taint the taste.

Guy’s dad.
John Watson is the ultimate food waste hero. A half rotten Crown Prince squash in grade-out? He’ll take it on!

Live Life on the Veg with these 5 kale recipes

Mushrooms, Kale & Barley with Fresh Herbs & Baked Eggs

This is an easy, two-pan dish with plenty of umami (savoury) flavour from the mushrooms, particularly the dried mushroom liquor that acts like a little stock. We’ve used curly, but any kale will work here.

Read full mushrooms, kale & barley with fresh herbs & baked eggs recipe.

Guy’s Kale Hash

This kale, chorizo and potato hash is the ultimate weekend breakfast or hearty dinner on a cold day. Top with a poached egg to make a more complete meal. You can also use cabbage or sliced Brussels sprouts in place of kale here.

See full Guy’s kale hash recipe.

Celeriac, Kale & Mushroom Pie

This winter warmer gives the heartiest of meat stews a run for its money. Cooking the component parts may seem a bit fiddly but it ensures each ingredient retains its perfect flavour and texture. We’ve suggested some additions to the filling but go easy with them – the veg is more than enough to carry the show.

See full celeriac, kale & mushroom pie recipe.

Baked Potatoes with Cheesy Kale Filling

These vegetarian baked potatoes hit that magic spot somewhere between decadent and worthy. They make a great simple and inexpensive midweek dinner and can be easily adapted to your kitchen contents: use chard or spinach if you have this in your veg box instead of kale, or use a smoky cheese such as Gruyère in place of cheddar.

See full baked potatoes with cheesy kale filling recipe.

Kale, Spelt & Chorizo Big Soup

This ‘big soup’ is a chunky broth that’s almost a stew. It’s a great style of dish for using up the last odds and ends in your winter veg box. The basic requirements are onion and garlic, a grain, good stock and lots of veg, but you can liven it up with bacon or chorizo, by stirring in pesto or by sprinkling over gremolata. It also reheats well.

See full kale, spelt & chorizo big soup recipe.