Riverford Organic Farm

Staverton, Devon, 10th September, 2002 We used to have a wonderful organic farm shop, Highfield, just around the corner from us in Topsham, on the Blue Ball road out of town where the fields stretch down towards the winding river Clyst. But Ian and Lindsay, though still passionately committed to organics, have decided to pursue other interests and the farm shop is no more. This is indeed a great shame, for buying organic vegetables at the source meant not only that they were good and local and fresh-picked, it also meant that they were no more expensive than normal vegetables from the greengrocer or supermarket (where most organic produce is still way too expensive).
Since midsummer, however, we've found a more than adequate replacement in Riverford organics. Riverford Farm is located at Staverton, near Dartington and we used to drive down to the farm shop from time to time (about 45 minutes from us), primarily to purchase outstanding organic meats. The family business in fact is now split between three brothers (I think): one continues to run the farm shop with organic meats and vegetables; another has an organic dairy farm; and a third operates the organic vegetable box scheme.
It's the latter which has been supplying us with our weekly supply of vegetables. Each Tuesday, we look forward to receiving a good size box -- we opt for the medium, which costs £9.50 -- containing whatever has been harvested locally either from the Riverford organic farm itself or from local certified organic farms which collaborate in the scheme.
Today, for example, we received a box containing a bag of milva potatoes, bunched carrots, green onions, spinach, leeks, swede, a bag of lettuce greens (a sort of Devon mesclum, with mizuma, rocket, lamb's lettuce, cilantro), some cherry tomatoes, a big bag of basil, some tiny beetroots with greens, and a couple of red peppers. I think that such a big box of really fresh, local organic produce for just under a tenner is fantastic value. We also get each week a couple of litres of Riverford's organic milk (unhomogenized and really delicious), and a large honey and sunflower loaf that is just out of this world. Much of the enjoyment comes from the serendipity of the delivery: never knowing quite what is coming, and the challenge of utilising vegetables we'd otherwise probably not purchase.
Each week's delivery comes with a newsletter page, sometimes talking about the week's produce, or perhaps highlighting a local grower, or just seasonal news and chat. There is always a good recipe included. This week, for example, we were surprised (well actually a little disappointed if I'm honest) to find a couple of swedes in our box but the newsletter informs (under the heading 'Back to our roots'): "This week's boxes contain the first of the season's swedes. The texture and flavour are excellent. The colour is normally a good indication of quality: those with the lilac hue are the best. With the cooler evenings, it is time to start thinking about that favourite casserole or replacing potato with steamed and mashed swede. For warmer days grated swede makes an interesting addition to any salad." Now doesn't that make swede, never usually my favourite vegetable, sound so appetising -- I actually can't wait to try the first of the season!
Riverford are trying to expand this service (they offer a franchise scheme that should allow it eventually to cover much of the country). Right now they cover a pretty broad area that is expanding all the time: Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Dorset, Bristol, Bath, Gloucestershire, Bournemouth, Hampshire, and parts of West London, Surrey, S. Bucks, and Hertfordshire. They are apparently coming soon to Southampton, Basingstoke, and Newbury.
If you live in these areas and are interested, I'd urge you to try them. Have a look at www.riverford.co.uk or email mail@riverford.co.uk.

This week's Riverford recipe:

Leek and potato soup
serves 4

400g leeks
200g potatoes
1 medium onion
4 tbsp olive oil
750ml vegetable stock
250ml milk
Salt and pepper

Slice the leeks and roughly chop the potatoes and onion. Sautee the vegetables in hot oil for 10 minutes.

Add the stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Stir in the milk. Transfer to a liquidiser and blend until smooth. Reheat gently before serving.

recipe copyright © Riverford Organic Vegetables 2002

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