This week, Hodmedod’s organic British Fava beans and Carlin peas have joined our range, with wholegrain quinoa soon to follow. Tinned beans might not sound like the most exciting new arrival, but Hodmedod’s store-cupboard staples are something special: forgotten varieties, British grown and really tasty.
Who are Hodmedod’s?
Hodmedod’s are dedicated to supplying beans, peas, grains and seeds from British farms.
“Back in 2008, community group Transition Town Norwich asked Nick, William and I to help them work out whether, with climate change in mind, the city could feed itself from surrounding farmland,” says Josiah Meldrum, co-founder of Hodmedod’s alongside Nick Saltmarsh and William Hudson.
“We looked at various scenarios, but what was striking about all of them was the need to grow and eat more pulses; not only because they’re a great source of protein and other nutrients but because they make a fantastic contribution to more sustainable crop rotations.”
Crop rotations are used by organic farmers instead of nitrogen-based artificial fertilisers. Pulses absorb nitrogen from the atmosphere and ‘fix’ it in the soil; growing more of them “would help to reduce the city’s food footprint (the area of land needed to feed itself),” Josiah says.
A 100% self-sufficient Norwich might only have been a thought experiment, but the notion that we should be eating more British pulses stuck. The future-Hodmedod’s team discovered that there were traditional pulse varieties still being widely grown locally – and then exported, or used for pigeon feed! One early interest was Fava beans:
“It seems that in the UK, as we got richer, Fava beans became stigmatised as poor people’s food and over the last 200 years or so have almost completely disappeared from our kitchens. In much of the rest of the world it’s still a staple.”
Nick, William and Josiah decided to form a company to “bring forgotten and overlooked pulses back into kitchens and onto farms.” Hodmedod (an old East Anglian word for snails, ammonites, hedgehogs, the curls in a girl’s hair, really any curled-up thing… Even, the team thought, a bean shoot!) was born.
Hodmedod’s tinned organic Fava beans are cooked and ready to use. Ignoring their recent dip from fashion, we can see why they were so popular with Brits from the Iron Age right up to the 19th Century: they have plenty of body, and a satisfying, meaty flavour.
A favourite in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine – or brilliant for truly British homemade baked beans, and adding body to stews, curries and more.
The story goes that in the Elizabethan age, a Spanish ship was wrecked off the coast of Newcastle, and bags of Carlin pea seeds were washed ashore and planted by curious farmers. Since then, they’ve become a Northern favourite – but aren’t yet widely used in the rest of the country.
A very deserving Great Taste Award-winner, Hodmedod’s tinned Carlin peas are grown organically in Shropshire. Firm and superbly nutty, they make an excellent British substitute for chickpeas or Puy lentils.
Keep your eyes peeled for Hodmedod’s Suffolk-grown quinoa, hitting our shelves soon. Pioneering farmer Peter Fair started growing quinoa in the UK in the 1980s, and has worked with Hodmedod’s to find the tastiest types for their growers. They settled on the Fairking variety: wonderfully light and nutty, it’s a Delicious Award winner. Watch this space!