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Picking then eating – a visit to Riverford

September 2, 2010

I ran down the lane to the Field kitchen, breathless, 10 minutes late, wellies in hand, my family hard on my heels and was met our Riverford Farm guide who calmly assured me the tour had not started yet.  It made my day, I relaxed and bit into a fresh Bath Beauty apple that he encouraged us to scrump from a tree.  For the next couple of hours we strolled around the Devon fields viewing, touching, smelling and tasting some of the organic fruit and vegetables that go into some of the 47,000 veg boxes that are delivered around the UK.

organic artichoke

We met founder Guy Watson in the artichoke field and he demonstrated how to prepare one while talking us through some of his favourite recipes before going back to harvesting.  It was hard to believe that he runs the hugely successful Riverford Organics that he started by delivering boxes to 30 friends as we watched him wend his way through the rows, popping globes into his back pack.  We learned that the Field Kitchen cook the meals for the local school – lucky children.  After a tractor ride, a frantic raid on the tomato plants and the most juicy and sweet plums that we had ever tasted we returned to the Field Kitchen for lunch.

squash and smoked ricotta salad

The canteen style layout meant we were seated at a table with another family and we all shared the dishes delivered by friendly staff.  The menu is determined by the produce picked from the fields that morning.  The kitchen is run by Jane Baxter who, among other things, has taken over the New Vegetarian column for the Guardian vacated by Yotum Ottolenghi. Like Ottolenghi the focus is on vegetables rather than vegetarianism.

My laden plate

We all tucked into the food with gusto, from the toddler in a high chair at the end of the table to his delightful grandparents.  The leek and florence fennel gratin pleased my husband who normally shuns creamy recipes.  The roast potatoes with garlic and thyme disappeared immediately.  I didn’t detect the caraway in the roasted carrots and beetroot but probably because I ate them too quickly – the sweetness was addictive. The grilled chicken was the only meat dish, paired with earthy lentils and glossy, fresh, green beans.  My vegetarian daughter had deeply sweet onions in a crisp pastry tart as her alternative.

chocolate and raspberry tart

We were summoned table by table to the counter of the open kitchen to choose from a sumptuous array of puddings from cobblers to crumbles, tarts to Pavlova. Husband and I chose raspberry claufoutis – a great balance of sweet with slightly sharp, daughter no 1 was very happy with her peach and blueberry crumble and younger daughter opted for dark chocolate and raspberry tart (surprise, surprise). As we sipped our coffee we watched the toddlers playing with a huge basket of toys – it was children friendly without compromising adult enjoyment.  Guy and his family ate their lunch at a picnic table on the terrace.  We were pleasantly sated and already planning a return visit next year.  Just wish they’d deliver a veg box in Dubai….

  1. September 2, 2010 4:55 am

    I am SO envious! I brought the Riverford Farm cookbook when I was in Bath last year , it is so inspirational. I would love to visit the farm kitchen, sounds wonderful. 🙂

  2. Anna permalink
    September 2, 2010 9:37 am

    Looks amazing! I was expecting a haggis blog!

  3. September 2, 2010 11:12 am

    I only just restrained myself from buying the cook book (I have a few…). They are doing some Field Kitchen on tour nights around the country. I don’t know if there is one where you live Plum Kitchen. Alas Anna – I didn’t eat a single morsel of haggis while I was in Scotland (or see one single midge!).

  4. Nicola Philbin permalink
    September 2, 2010 11:23 am

    Oh I am SOOOOO jealous that you went to Riverford!! We used to get a box every week when we were in the UK and it was one of the things I really missed when we went to Dubai. My Mum always used to comment on how muddy the veg were – but I loved that! I’m looking into getting something similar here in Holland. Have you got the Riverford cookbook? It’s excellent. I’ll make it there some day…..

  5. Jane permalink
    September 2, 2010 1:28 pm

    Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Missing the Uk and fresh air and good honest comfort food. I would to love to visit the farm. I love my veg!

  6. Tricia Evans permalink
    September 2, 2010 2:43 pm

    Can almost taste those dishes Sally…they look & sound amazing!

  7. aurelius1 permalink
    September 2, 2010 5:47 pm

    I very much enjoyed your post as well on Riverford
    The pictures were very impressive.
    I didn’t take any as my piece was published in a magazine and they had the photos they needed.
    Here is the magazine piece.
    Haddock in the Kitchen

  8. September 7, 2010 5:32 pm

    I have to say it is what I love the most about living in Germany – my weekly veggie box! When my parents were here (from Dubai) my mum said the same thing “I wish they delivered in Dubai!”

    • September 7, 2010 7:52 pm

      The sad thing is Meeta, a box scheme started here this year from a lovely organic farm that also opened a shop 2 minutes from my house. The food was so fresh. It was suddenly closed without warning and without much explanation in August. I think it’s almost worse to have had it and have it taken away than not to have had it at all, if that makes sense! The quality of the food in Germany is fabulous. I visited Munich last December and loved the market there. I’m now hunting for new sources of fresh vegetables in Dubai.


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