Here is Part 2 of a road trip discovering delicious and nutritious homegrown British foods.
Riverford Farm in Buckfastleigh, Devon.
Our second visit was to Buckfastleigh, home to Riverford, the award-winning organic vegbox business.
25 years ago Guy Watson started delivering vegetables locally to 30 friends and neighbours. Today, the family business delivers an astonishing 40,000 boxes a week nationally from its five farms and network of British farmers. We use Riverford veg when cooking for our private clients and catering events and recommend them to everyone!
We caught up with Rachel and assistant harvest manager Ed Scott to hear more about the Riverford ethos and the benefits of buying seasonal and organic produce.
Watch our video
The Riverford philosophy of farming is to grow and harvest food that tastes good, regardless of size, shape or fashion. They also strongly believe in convenience. People assume that organic food is harder to get hold of, whereas with the Riverford box scheme, seasonal fruit and vegetables are delivered straight to your door. The time it takes to get from the field to your doorstep is typically much shorter than the route food takes to arrive on supermarket shelves. For most of the produce it’s as little as just two days.
This approach to veggie picking may seem obvious to those not in the profession, but with conventional farming the reality is that you’d never eat straight from the field as the veg would taste terrible. You’d need to wash off all the chemicals that had been sprayed over them before putting them anywhere near your mouth. It’s an exciting and encouraging sign that everything here tastes great directly from the ground. You can’t get fresher than that!
Being 100% organic means Riverford has less yield than commercial farms, but the benefits this brings its 40,000 plus customers are unbeatable. Firstly, organic is better for you: organic farms don’t spray their crops with a mixture of nerve toxins, fungicides and herbicides. Research suggests organic food has higher nutritious value, and judging by the taste of the tomatoes, plums and redcurrants the flavour is much stronger too.
Ed explained that people are becoming used to eating vegetables out of season – which isn’t necessarily a good thing. For example, strawberries are readily available in the UK all year round. However, strawberries in December are never going to taste as good as strawberries in June. They will have been shipped from abroad in a process taking anything up to a week which will compromise the flavour. And you’ll pay a pretty penny for the privilege of eating totally average fruit. There’s a reason vegetables grow at certain times of the year. They offer nutrients we need to keep us safe from lurgies in winter or to keep our energy levels up during long summer nights.
Secondly, organic farming is good for the environment. There’s more biodiversity and soil life, less polluted watercourses, less fossil fuels, and a lower carbon footprint. It’s all about having respect for the land. Not depleting the soil, but adding natural elements that will help it flourish.
Back in the kitchen, we chose courgettes as their main ingredient for their Riverford recipe, complimented by other summer veg including ripe tomatoes, red peppers and purple basil with a wonderful aniseed bite.
Courgettes are not only one of our favourite vegetables as they are so versatile and affordable. They love plenty of heat and moisture, which luckily hasn’t been in short supply this summer so there is plenty to go around.
‘Courgetti with Red Pesto’
A wonderful seasonal summer dish, perfect for a light dinner, using the best of Riverford’s organic summer veg
Ingredients (use organic ingredients where possible)
6 large courgettes 1.5kg
90g cashews (soaked for 4-6 hours then drained and rinsed)
2 large handfuls of fresh basil
1 large red pepper 200g
800g cherry tomatoes
6 cloves of garlic (do not peel but wrap the bundle of cloves in foil)
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
1 large pinch of sea salt
1 large pinch of black pepper
Fresh red chilli - add a little at first
- Preheat the oven to 180C
- Halve the red pepper and lay on a baking tray with the whole cherry tomatoes. Roast the tomatoes and pepper slowly in the oven for 90 mins - 2 hours to reduce the moisture and concentrate their sweet flavor. Halfway through, add the foil covered garlic to the roasting tray
- Squeeze the roasted garlic out of their skins into the blender, then add the roasted tomatoes and pepper as well as the rinsed cashews, parmesan, balsamic vinegar and almost all of the basil (save some for decorating) Blend until you have made a chunky sauce. Taste for seasoning
- Use a spiraliser to turn the courgettes into long strips that resemble spaghetti then combine the sauce and courgetti in a large bowl and mix through with your hands
- Pile everything into a dish, scatter with extra basil, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and enjoy!
Watch our video