Tuesday, 3 April 2007

East of Eden

I've been meaning to visit the Eden Project for a very long time and finally the opportunity arose: one of my brothers was celebrating his birthday by taking the whole family to lunch at Riverford in Devon, the birthplace of the organic veggie box. And from there it was only an hour's drive into Cornwall,and Eden.

But the veg deserve the first blog of this two parter: Riverford grows and delivers organic vegetables (www.riverford.co.uk). Organic vegetables appeal to many people and - particularly for pregnant women or those with little children to feed - its nice to know that the vegetables have been grown with natural fertilizer, have not been sprayed with pesticide or treated to prolong their shelf-life.

Of course, to grow your own produce is best of all but not always possible. As most of us have discovered, freshly cropped, untreated green-leaf vegetables don't keep – and flavour and vitamins are lost quickly once picked - so should be eaten as soon as possible. Riverford Farms' veggie boxes are delivered throughout the country on a weekly basis: the vegetables in them are picked today and delivered to your door the next.

Quite obviously – to reduce that carbon footprint - if you have a market nearby it is much better to buy your produce locally. Produce at Farmers Markets, for example, has to be grown within a 30 mile radius and so the vegetable produce will be fresh - their vitamin content fairly intact - and many of them will be organic.

So, you might conclude that what Riverford is doing is not so very special now that there are many outlets selling freshly picked vegetables and fruits. However, the variety of produce is often very limited which makes for a very boring diet: we have all become used to – and enjoy - a very wide choice of vegetables and fruits from around the world.

And it is this aspect of the Riverford experience that impresses me the most: they offer variety. Their farms grow over 100 varieties of vegetables and every weekly box offers something different. In the summer season every type of soft fruit is available, in the winter there are interesting - often long forgotten – vegetables.

The highlight of our visit there was lunch at the field kitchen: no choice but what a treat. We dined on succulent grilled lamb steaks with a salsa, served on a bed of kale and white beans; potato & celeriac gratin; braised fennel; purple sprouting broccoli with anchovy and garlic; butter braised carrots; sauté of leek and Jerusalem artichoke with bacon; a mixed green leaf salad with beetroot, lentils and feta cheese and malted bread.

The vegetarians in our party were also offered a specially prepared filo tart. All this was washed down with excellent wine and local cider and rounded off with a choice of puddings. It was certainly the most convincing argument I've had for locally grown, freshly picked, imaginatively prepared and flavoursome food. A veritable vegetable heaven.



1 comment:

dovegreyknitter said...

Lucy I've found you and the write up of your lovely trip to Devon.Riverford is very popular locally, they deliver veggie boxes weekly to customers around the town and it's hilarious because you never know what will be in them. There's a veggie swap table in the surgery I work in and one family that hates curly kale will leave it there and swap it for some spinach or something.