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.
Orchards are swelling with ripe, fragrant fruit. It’s time to celebrate English apple season and rediscover some traditional varieties.
Paul Ward grows apples, pears and plums for us on his four farms in Kent. He started out over 17 years ago, buying his first orchard as a hobby. Since then, Paul’s business has grown to producing 700-800 tonnes of apples every year. About half of these go to us, to supply our regional farms.
Organic apple growing is not without its difficulties. Our damp, mild, British climate makes trees susceptible to fungal diseases that sap vigour and yield. Organic farming forbids the use of some sprays to prevent this, presenting a very real challenge to growers. This is why so few orchards remain in the UK; despite people’s professed enthusiasm for traditional varieties, the reality is that our eyes prefer the cosmetically-perfect specimens in the fruitbowl. The apples you’ll get from us might have the odd knot or gnarl, but they are grown for flavour and character.
We start the season with Discovery, a red-skinned fruit with crisp white flesh. Katy will be ready soon after; a beautiful dark crimson apple that has a light, gentle flavour typical of early varieties. Then come Red Windsor and Red Pippin with a stronger, Cox-like flavour. Look out also for Russets, with a distinctive dry flesh and balance of sweet and sharpness. Mid-season, try Spartan, a dark red-skinned, aromatic variety. We will also have some Bramleys through the season; the definitive English apple for cooking and baking.
Some of the early season varieties, particularly Discovery, are at their best for only about a week. As with all fruit, smell is a good indicator of flavour and ripeness. For the main varieties, ripening is about the conversion of starch to sugar; they get sweeter up to a point, then the texture dives and they lose moisture, becoming soft and woolly. As a rule, all English apples are best eaten as quickly as possible, freshly-plucked from the tree.
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Strawberries are a traditional sight at the start of the UK summer and on a sunny Tuesday in mid-June we took a trip to our fields in Devon to take some photos of them being picked.
Strawberries will usually be ready from late May to mid July but the timing has to be right. If they have a little green on them they will be able to ripen in the punnet, but if they are too green they can’t. If they’re too red, they don’t keep for long, even in the fridge.
For something different, try our recipe for strawberries in balsamic vinegar and orange juice.