Tag Archives: blood oranges

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

guy’s newsletter: with oranges & fennel this good, who needs meat?

I spent New Year in Sicily; mostly for pleasure, but Italy is always a good place for vegetable-based inspiration. As things turned out I got snowed in up a mountain, but not before going a little crazy at the markets in the narrow streets of Palermo. While waiting for two foot of snow to melt, I amused myself by cooking endless dishes with cardoons, fennel, artichokes, wild asparagus, escarole, wild fennel and cima di rapa, along with mozzarella and pecorino.

No-one comes close to the southern Italians when it comes to skill with, and appreciation of, vegetables. OK, they are blessed with a fantastic climate, but more significant is their cooking culture and enthusiasm to embrace a range of flavours and not immediately reject anything bitter; their willingness to occasionally chew also helps. With the exception of some wonderful prosciutto, the meat was boring. This is no bad thing as, according to chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, livestock production contributes up to 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than every single car, train, and plane on the planet. It’s a truly staggering statistic if even close to being true and adds fervour to our veg crusade and makes me feel a little better about my flight, but questions localism and food miles. More on this next week.

We get most of our oranges from Ginés in Andalucía, a grower who we’ve worked with for many years, alongside a co-op of Italian growers based around Mount Etna in Sicily. The Sicilians invariably grow the best blood oranges (something to do with the volcanic soil, they claim); they are fantastic juiced, in a salad with thinly sliced fennel or on their own; the season is short but they should be available for the next six to eight weeks. This year Ginés has a poor crop so we will buy more from Sicily, but our Seville oranges will as always come from Ave Maria Farm located just south of Seville, whose organic groves are tended to by a delightfully eccentric family. The first fruits have just arrived and will be at their best for the next month, so get your preserving pans out.

Guy Watson

riverford newsletter: a little winter colour

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Oranges bring a bright, zingy contrast to all the glorious roots and greens of winter, so the Spanish and Italian citrus seasons are well-timed. By importing via road and ferry, the carbon footprint of these crops is a fraction of their airfreighted equivalents. Oranges thrive in the extreme south of Europe but they need cool nights to develop their colour and sweetness, meaning they are a winter fruit. January brings two special arrivals:

blood oranges

Riverford’s blood oranges are grown by a co-operative of small-scale family farms located in and around the foothills of Mount Etna in Sicily. There is a lot of skill involved in growing blood oranges, as so many factors can affect the colouration of its vibrant crimson-streaked flesh. Soil pH and crop variety play a part, but the most important influence is low temperatures during the night. It takes years of experience for the farmers to know when the crop is ready, at which point it is hand harvested using a rolling platform, where the pickers put the fruit straight into baskets and then out to Riverford via their co-op packhouse. Blood oranges are of course wonderful enjoyed as they are, but their balance of sweetness and acidity make them a good addition to winter salads. And considering that blood oranges contain up to three times the amount of Vitamin C compared to most standard oranges, they are timely for fending off those winter colds!

 

Seville oranges

Teresa Amodora and her two daughters have been growing Seville oranges on Ave Maria Farm near Seville since 1986. You can’t get much more organic than their groves, and the fruit has the classic aromatic zest and tart flesh that are much sought after by marmalade makers. They will be available as a marmalade ‘kit’ along with unwaxed, organic lemons and our much-loved recipe throughout January and February (you’ll need your own sugar and jars). Once made, don’t limit its use to toast; we’ve a super Seville orange marmalade pudding recipe on our website, or alternatively use it for a cracking duck a l’orange.