citrus stories

Last week our Spanish orange season started with the arrival of our first load of fruit from Al Arbuli, a cooperative of 40 family farms in the hills bordering the desert behind Almeria. They are headed up by Ginés, who has been our main citrus grower for the last three years; he’s rather more modest than the Man from Del Monte but we do rely on his judgement and when he says yes, it normally is good.

Oranges only thrive in the extreme south of Europe but need cool nights to develop their colour and sweetness, meaning they are a winter fruit. In a good year there are enough grapes, melons, soft and stone fruit from France and the UK through the summer and autumn for us to keep your fruit bowls interesting, so we normally end up using much smaller quantities of oranges from South Africa through these months.

Counter-intuitively, because they travel mainly in ships (which are seven times more efficient than HGVs), according to our calculations the environmental impact of transport from South Africa (310g CO2/kg of fruit) is not that much higher than from Spain (240g CO2/kg). I sense people yawning as I write; my point is that food miles are a very poor measure of environmental impact. Perhaps more interestingly, Ginés’ fruit is normally a hundred times better. Shipping fruit around the world seems all the more crazy when it ends up being disappointing. As for other citrus, we started with Ginés’ clementines last week which should run to early February. The skins are still slightly green but he says yes, and I agree with him. Meanwhile we will have Seville oranges for marmalade again from Ave María farm (run by 75 year old Teresa Amadora) near Seville in December, January and February; I am on my last jar of marmalade so it’s just in the nick of time.

Guy Watson

Riverford on the BBC + potluck vegboxes
During the summer we had a visit from the much-loved Italian chef Antonio Carluccio and a BBC film crew from The Great British Food Revival. They picked our brains about beetroot and had a wander around our crops, and Antonio even signed some of our vegboxes. Take a look at yours; if it says “eat your reds” then let us know. There’s a bottle of prosecco in it for you! Catch the programme on Wednesday 16th November, 7pm, BBC2.