You know we're keen on getting local and seasonal produce wherever possible? This has been helped enormously just recently by the emergence of a new small market garden just south of Cringleford. Jan and Janine run Meadow Harvest with Ben, Jan's partner, and have, over the last year or so, been gradually converting a field, previously used for grazing, into a wildly productive small-holding with a great variety of produce that we have been using in the restaurant. This week I went to visit with our new Trainee Sous Chef, Hannah, whom you will be hearing more about in the coming months.
Jan and her partners have been unafraid to try growing any veg, some with more success than others, some surprising, some less so. All the produce is grown organically, with the 'No-dig' method to preserve the soil structure. Plenty of green compost comes from the council's food waste composting, and wood chippings from nearby help to keep the weeds down. Even the retired horses who live on site help to clear up any discarded plants and 'contribute' to the natural fertilisers.
Picture of Hannah... Obscured by the horses.
At the kitchen door, the result of all this fecundity has presented us with some lush salads and vegetables, and some fun challenges; 'Can we use 2 dozen slightly damaged kohlrahbi? How many kilos of mini cucumbers can you take?' Alongside our regular ingredients, we have been making even more pickles and kimchi!
It's true to say that this summer's weather has been challenging for growers like Meadow Harvest, both dryer and cooler than usual, with less sun, but this has led to extended seasons for produce which we would have expected to be over by now. We saw lush beds of watercress, and even outdoor strawberries (admittedly, the latter had suffered from this week's rain.)
Peppers, and an assortment of chillies are doing well in the poly tunnels.
After our visit we are looking forward to some excellent squash and winter roots coming through. However we have discovered that 'local' and 'seasonal' doesn't have to exclude exotics. Aside from the abundance of chillies, Jan has a good crop of galia melons coming on, and even a few watermelons! We were discussing the possibility of some Japanese greens that might well make their way into our Asian-inspired dishes, and expecting plenty of coriander in the coming months. So, when you sit down to eat at River Green, and you feel sceptical about the seasonality of a dish, its contents might actually have come from just down the road!
Some of the profusion of Autumn squashes just coming into season.
We heard about the travails Jan has had with the pests this year, slugs in particular have had the time of their lives! Organic control has included netting, beer traps and plans to dig ponds so frogs and ducks can help out, but in the end, there's been no substitute for hours of picking through the plants to take out the pests by hand. Given the size of the plot it's a full-time job in itself, not withstanding the planting, picking and watering etc. that also must go on!
Ben and Jan, (Janine is doing the paperwork and delivering produce)
So, we enjoyed seeing where lots of our veg comes from, and are looking forward to some exciting and tasty things we can do with more of it in the future. If you would like to sample some of the produce for yourselves, Jan and Janine run a veg box scheme and you can get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Finally, if you're ever passing from Cringleford and heading out towards Intwood, you may see a stall at the side of the road with fresh produce for sale... Those are the bits that Jan's kids pick and sell for pocket money... It's worth supporting them too!