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Another visit from The Happy Pear


Last time we teamed up with Irish chef duo The Happy Pear, their joyful, nourishing cookery went down a storm with our recipe box customers. Now we’re thrilled to be working with the boys again for some new limited edition vegetarian recipe boxes, delivered from 8th May.

The Happy Pear, identical twins David and Stephen Flynn, are chefs who run a natural food shop, wholefood café and restaurant, superfood sprout farm and online shop, as well as giving health education talks – all to ‘inspire a healthier, happier world’. A quick look at their cookbooks (both bestsellers in Ireland) shows their infectious passion for vibrant, veg-packed cooking is a brilliant match with our own approach to food.

A bit more background on dynamic duo: after studying business at university, David and Stephen travelled the world, tasting many local dishes and unusual ingredients along the way. When they returned to Ireland, their aims were to start a food revolution by making fruit and veg exciting, to get involved with their community, and to drag as many people along for the ride as possible.
Today, The Happy Pear is a community itself, all about making natural, nutritious food mainstream, and creating really good products that make it easier for people to be healthier and happier. They have a huge following on social media; every week they release videos on their YouTube channel, and they’re also part of Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube, the largest foodie community in Europe.

David and Stephen live with their families in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland. They really ‘walk their talk’ by eating a wholefood and plant-based diet, practicing yoga, swimming in the sea, keeping bees, and smiling every day.

When the boys came to see us on the farm in Devon, they were a pleasure to have along – just as full of energy and warm enthusiasm in person as they are in their videos. Riverford founder Guy Watson gave them a tour, where they harvested leeks and tasted their way through the green leaves in our polytunnels, before heading to our development kitchen for a bit of cooking and a photoshoot. Here’s what they had to say:

“We’re delighted to be working with Riverford; their food culture and the way they work so close to the land and the people who farm it is inspirational. One of our missions is to get people to eat more veg, and this is very much central to what Riverford do, so it’s a beautiful marriage of goals. Our recipes plus Riverford veg – what could be better?”

We couldn’t agree more.

Limited edition Happy Pear recipe boxes, with everything you need to make three colourful, flavour-packed vegetarian meals for two people. Pre-order now for deliveries from 8th May.

WastED pop-up restaurant – Riverford meets New York

Last year we received a very exciting email asking if we’d like to be involved with a pop-up restaurant at Selfridges. It would be hosted by the illustrious Blue Hill Farm Restaurant, based in New York. Dan Barber, the head chef at Blue Hill, is something of an inspiration to our cooks at Riverford. Their ethos is similar to our own, with a focus on sustainable and local food from producers who respect artisanal techniques. The most exciting bit? The menu would use produce that would normally be considered waste; we’re not talking wonky veg, but by-products of the food industry that are never used.

After a little brainstorming, it was decided that Riverford would provide whole kale trees (the stalks with a few leaves on that are left at the end of the season), cabbage re-growth (leaves that re-appear once the cabbage has been harvested), and very undersized cabbages (ones that are too small to pick).


The pop-up opened its doors on Selfridges’ rooftop terrace on February 24th. Immediate feedback from the chefs told us the kale trees were going down a storm and were a visual sensation. They serve them whole on a spike on a wooden board, alongside scissors to cut the leaves yourself and a creamy, smoky dip.

A couple of us were lucky enough to go along. We entered through a dark corridor with black and white food and farming videos playing, and Jonny Cash’s Walk the Line on the playlist. Immediately, it was clear that the waste theme went further than just the food: there were lampshades made from dried mushrooms, tables from compressed artichoke fibres, and menus on recycled paper.

Each dish was presented to us with a story: how it’s made and where the produce comes from. Everything we ate and drank was innovative, wonderfully delicious and so inspiring. In a world where we waste a huge amount and many go without, projects like this are a fantastic way to fuel the food waste movement and keep the conversation alive.

To find out more, visited the WastED London website.

10-a-day? No problem!

Recent scientific research suggests we should be eating 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day to help live a longer life. To many people that may sound like a lot, but we don’t think so.

With 30 years’ experience growing organically, we really know our veg. We choose crops for flavour, rather than cosmetic perfection or high yield; for the carrotiest carrots, and potatoes like your grandad used to grow. Our boxes are all about bringing the best from the fields into customers’ homes. They are an inspiring way to cook from scratch, eat seasonally, and pack a load of goodness into your diet.

Founder and farmer Guy Watson believes squeezing 10 portions of fruit and veg into your daily diet is entirely possible. “It is easy to add 2 or 3 vegetables into every meal. From beetroot gratins to chard galettes, leeks on toast to every-veg curry, it really is so easy to make vegetables the star of every dish.”

Need some help getting to grips with the green stuff? You can access our veg nerds’ best tips and bright ideas for free on our recipe app, online recipe hub, YouTube channel – or even come along to one of our veg box cookery classes, happening across the country.

Shop organic fruit and veg

What’s new?

No matter how exciting a new product is, to make it onto our shelves, wowing in taste tests is only the first hurdle. We must be just as confident in the ethics of anything we sell as we are in the flavour.

Here are the inspiring stories behind the newest treats in our online farm shop.

Cornish sea salad

Often the best ideas are hiding right under our noses. So it was for Caro Warwick-Evans and Tim van Berkel, two ocean-loving surfers and the founders of the Cornish Seaweed Company.

Renewable energy graduate Caro was listening to a Radio 4 programme about the Irish seaweed industry when she had her ‘eureka!’ moment. Cornwall’s waters are bursting with richly nutritious seaweed; why wasn’t it being used?

Old friend & conservationist Tim soon got on board with the idea, but making it happen turned out to be far from easy. England had no seaweed industry to speak of, so they had no precedent to follow through the complex laws and regulations surrounding our coastline. Eventually, they were granted license to harvest from a 5-mile stretch of the Lizard coast by the Crown Estate.

Sustainability is a founding principle of the Cornish Seaweed Company. They worked with Natural England to create a national code of conduct for sustainable seaweeding, always harvest by hand, and dry the seaweed using sun and wind energy. They are certified organic by the Soil Association.

Shop Cornish sea salad

Shade-grown coffee

In its wild form, coffee is a shrub that grows in the forest shade, protected from the sun by a canopy of trees. However, to produce greater yields, a new breed of sun-tolerant coffee plants was created in the 1970s. Swathes of rainforest have now been cleared for sun-grown coffee plantations, destroying habitats, leaching the soil of nutrients, and polluting the ecosystem with chemical nasties.

Our new ground coffee is organically shade grown. The shade trees not only provide protection from the sun, but also drop leaves which turn to mulch, keeping the soil naturally moist and fertile. Local wildlife is free to thrive around the crops – especially birds, who repay the favour by taking on pest control duty and eating insects off the plants.

This coffee is better for people too. The beans are grown by Manos Campesinas, a cooperative of small-scale organic coffee farmers in the remote highlands of Guatemala. Manos Campesinas helps its members access the market and receive fair payment, as well as supporting them to plan and grow their businesses. The cooperative’s innovative work includes farmer-to-farmer training in advanced organic methods, and leadership programmes for women. Watch supplier Equal Exchange’s video about women in coffee.

Shop organic ground coffee

Pure peanut butter

Another treat from pioneering fair trade supplier Equal Exchange, this thick, flavoursome peanut butter is made with 100% organic peanuts and nothing else. No salt, no sugar, no palm oil, no lecithin stabilisers – just the best organic peanuts, roasted without blanching to preserve all their natural goodness.

The peanuts are grown by the Yishui Xingye Groundnut Professional Association, a group of 58 small-scale organic farmers in the Shandong province of China. Each farmer leases a few small plots to grow their crop, leaving as much of the area wooded as possible to encourage plants and wildlife. They have been farming organically since 1996, and process the nuts in their organic-only processing factory.

In 2009 the Association was certified Fairtrade. The farmers have decided jointly how to spend the additional income. A successful idea must fulfil the 3 points pinned up in their training centre: serving a basic need, improving the situation of all the farmers, and possessing a long-term benefit. So far they have chosen to improve roads in the area, buy books and clothes for schoolchildren, and invest in better seeds, tools and irrigation.

Shop organic peanut butter

To find out more, visit www.cornishseaweed.co.uk and www.equalexchange.co.uk

Hens on the veg


Because of the current avian flu threat, our chickens (like all UK poultry) must be kept indoors until spring, to make sure they don’t have any contact with wild birds that might carry the infection.

The sheds are safe and comfortable, but our birds are used to roaming on open green pasture all day; understandably, they can get a bit bored. We’ve done all sorts to keep them entertained – even giving them some footballs to play with! But the thing they seem to enjoy the most is lots of tasty grade-out produce to graze on.

Watch our video below to see our hens living life on the veg.

Order organic eggs and chicken in our online farm shop.

Iceberg lettuce shortage? Kale Caesar!

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As supermarkets ration veg because of bad weather in Spain and Italy, is the shortage of iceberg lettuce the big deal many are making it out to be?

Riverford founder, and organic veg box pioneer, Guy Watson thinks not. ‘We need to relearn the potential of great British veg, and embrace seasonal British winter crops instead of relying on imports. Right now our fields are brimming with wonderful cabbages, leeks, kale, swede and flavourful greenery that have much more to offer than imported courgettes or watery iceberg lettuce.’

He continues, ‘A lack of lettuce isn’t a big deal. One of our most popular winter dishes in the Riverford Field Kitchen restaurant is our Kale Caesar Salad; it is always a hit with diners, who are rarely aware that kale can be a far superior substitute for bland salad leaves. It’s also really easy to make a vibrant winter slaw using beetroot, carrot, red cabbage and swede – all in season and growing in British fields right now.’

As farmers ourselves, we know how devastating bad weather can be for a crop, and have a commitment to support our growers, and minimise waste by having much more generous specifications than the supermarkets.

‘In my experience, when I was growing for supermarkets, up to a half of all veg was often left in the field due to unnecessarily tight cosmetic specifications. We don’t believe in such needless waste so for example, we’re currently including undersized broccoli heads in our veg boxes, but just giving more of them. Because we grow, source, pack and deliver our veg ourselves, we have the flexibility to widen our specifications.’

With 30 years of veg growing experience behind us, we really know how to make great British veg sing. Our recipe hub is packed with recipes to help bring British veg to life, such as Kale, Chorizo and Potato Hash, Moroccan Cauliflower Salad with Chickpeas and Hazelnuts, and Kale, Fruit and Nut Pilaf.

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Top tips for juicing

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Seasonal fruit and succulent veg, zingy citrus, fresh herbs and spices… our new organic juicing box is brimming with all you need to make at least 3 litres of organic juice. With such a rainbow of squeezable things at your fingertips, the possible mixes are endless.

Here is our chefs’ guide to juicing, to help you make the most of all that good stuff.

Getting started
If you’re completely new to juicing, start by squeezing a few things separately then mixing, rather than trying to judge a harmonious blend straight into the glass. This also lets you taste the individual flavours; you can’t rely on vegetables’ cooked taste as a strict frame of reference for their juice.

Mixology
The key to a good blend is well balanced flavours. Start with the premise that what works well on the plate – beetroot and orange, apple and celery, cucumber and mint – will also work in the glass, and build from there using this flavour guide.

Mild
Mild ingredients such as apple, celery, cucumber, courgette, lettuce and melon form the base of your juice. They tend to yield large amounts of liquid, and act as a carrier for brasher flavours.

Sweet
Most people’s favourite flavour, found in most fruits and some veg (e.g. parsnips and carrots). Don’t be tempted to go too sweet; it’s much more satisfying when tempered with other, more complex flavours.

Bitter
Bitter veg such as dark leaves and brassicas definitely taste like they’re doing you good, but needn’t be taken as punishment. Combine with something sharp or sweet to round off their harsher edges.

Sharp
A hint of something sharp can do wonders to pep up a juice. Too much will make you wince, but a well-judged squeeze of lemon or lime is a good foil for excessive sweetness or bitterness.

Earthy
A deep, sturdy flavour found in most roots, especially carrots and beetroots. The right complementary flavours can really make it sing – try beetroot and orange, or carrot, apple and ginger.

Aromatic
Fresh greens herbs and spices, such as mint, parsley, turmeric and ginger, can be very dominating. Use cautiously, as a garnish to your juice.

It’s not just about flavour…
Yield
As well as a good flavour, you need enough liquid to make a decent drink. Some things yield a small amount of strong-tasting juice (e.g. kale, parsnips); others produce a larger volume with a milder flavour (e.g. cucumber, lettuce, melon). Try to choose at least one high-yielding ingredient.

Colour conscious
A photogenic juice is not your main aim, but it is worth remembering you colour charts from primary school. If you’re aiming for a certain hue, try to keep things in roughly the same spectrum. If all goes brown and murky, just add beetroot.

Thicken it up
Bananas and avocados are far too soft and mushy to juice; blend them into your juice instead.

Practical tips
Whatever the blend, these hints will come in handy.

  • As we are organic, there’s no worry of chemicals or wax on the skins, so most things can be juiced without peeling. Just take off any strong-tasting peel (e.g. citrus), or very tough skins that might challenge your juicer (e.g. melon or pineapple).
  • Greens are best tightly rolled before putting them in the juicer.
  • Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t try to force through too much, too fast.
  • Don’t forget to taste, tweak, and taste again, just as you would when cooking.
  • Finish with a high-yielding ingredient (e.g. cucumber) to wash through any trapped flavours.
  • Depending on the oomph of your juicer, it may be worth re-juicing the pulp to see if you can extract a few last drops.
  • Drink your juice as soon as possible. It will last up to 2 days in the fridge, but starts to oxidise and lose nutritional value quickly.
  • Compost your pulp. You could plant some veg in the results and juice that, too; a perfect circle.

Get juicing!
We hope these tips inspire you to become a mad juice scientist, creating your own colourful concoctions. Also try chef Bob’s juicing recipes, updated every week to reflect what’s in the box.

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Feed the Birds with a Riverford Sunflower

birds with sunflowerIn 2015, Guy decided to plant thousands of sunflowers on his French farm in the Vendée, hoping to make his own organic sunflower oil. Whilst watching the local wildlife thrive off the crop, he had an idea. Instead of making oil, he would give them away in the boxes, to feed British birds!

The sunflowers went down a treat – and not just with birds. People sent us snaps of everything from wild birds to chickens, the odd cheeky squirrel, and even a hamster munching their way through this organic snack. We also donated some to Paignton Zoo, Shaldon Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and the Monkey Sanctuary in Looe, where keepers said they made a great enrichment activity.

It was so wonderful to see all those creatures great and small enjoying Guy’s gift, he decided to grow even more sunflowers and do it again this year. The glowing yellow fields have been harvested, the flower heads have been dried, and they’re ready to go out. Most people will be getting one in their box this week, so keep your eyes peeled.

Once your sunflower arrives, hang it up so the birds can access the seeds easily, and high enough to keep them safe from prowling cats. It may take a few days for the English birds to catch on, but they will. Then simply enjoy the spectacle.

Wildlife photography competition

We would love to see photos of any feasting birds. Please share at facebook.com/riverford and twitter.com/riverford using #riverfordsunflower for your chance to win 6 months’ worth of Riverford veg boxes.

For inspiration, have a look at some of our favourite pictures from last time below.

Helping you live life on the veg

Many of you were generous enough with your time to fill in our recent customer survey and give us a fantastic amount of detailed feedback. This confirmed a huge desire to cook from scratch (95% of you doing so most days), a great appetite for veg (28% now vegetarian, more vegan and many more striving to eat less meat), and a great belief in the power of veg boxes to help you do this (extending your repertoire and eating healthily following organic, flavour and quality as reasons to buy Riverford). Less positively, only 31% of veg box buyers find the contents really easy to use up. So we know we still have a mission to make life on the veg a bit easier. Here are a few things we are doing to help you meet the challenge of the cardoon and kohlrabi.

Veg-centric recipes & the cooks who create them
We have a fantastic team of cooks here on the farm; what they don’t know about veg isn’t worth knowing, so visit the recipes hub on our website. We’ve worked hard this year to give you recipes and tips to match your box contents. They are in most veg boxes now will be in all as soon as we can house a new printer.

Social media stories
Think of our Facebook page as a mini Riverford community. If you’ve got a question, between us on the farm and other customers, someone will soon come to the rescue. You’ll also find new how-to videos for every vegetable, and new recipe videos both here and on our YouTube channel.

Cookery classes & supper clubs
We have started two-hour hands-on Master Veg classes and will be rolling out more of these next year. Classes are kept small, so there’s plenty of opportunity for individual guidance and questions. Meanwhile, our Supper Clubs are a great chance to meet other customers over a convivial veg-centric feast.

New ways with veg & new organic things
In 2017 we will be launching juicing boxes, new recipe boxes, as well as organic herbs, spices and more besides. And who knows what new crops Guy has up his sleeve!

Enjoy 2017 on the veg.

Popcorn on the cob

Guy loves growing something a little quirky, so for the second year running he’s experimented with growing popping corn on our French farm in the Vendée; it’s fun to play around with in the kitchen too.

The corn was planted back in May, across about 4 hectares of the farm. Like sweetcorn, which we grow during the summer, popping corn is a type of maize. It is important not to plant the two different crops in adjacent fields, as this could cause cross-pollination.

Sweetcorn can be harvested from as early as July in France, but the most important part of growing successful popping corn is leaving it for as long as possible and allowing enough time for the kernels to dry out; we left ours to soak up every last bit of the autumn sun and finally picked them in November.

We hope you’ll enjoy the magic of watching and hearing the kernels dance away in the pan. Here is our method, and a few ideas from chef Bob for how to pimp up your popcorn.

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Method:

Start by stripping the dried kernels from the cob. The best way is to hold the cob with both hands and perform a twisting, Chinese-burn-style motion. This should loosen the first few kernels; it is then just a case of thumbing the rest away from the cob and into a bowl.

You’ll need a heavy-based, roomy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Warm 1 tbsp vegetable oil, add the corn and put the lid on tight. Shake occasionally until you hear the popping start, then shake continuously over a high heat until it ebbs. Remove the corn and discard any unpopped pieces.

A few ideas:

Salty
Throw a knob of butter into the warm corn, mix until coated and season with flaky sea salt. If you are feeling crushingly contemporary, add a few turns of pepper or a measured shake of cider vinegar.

Sweet
Whip up this simple butterscotch just before cooking your corn and slather it over a warm bowlful. Put 25g butter, 50g dark brown sugar, 60ml double cream and a few drops of vanilla essence in a pan and heat gently until simmering, whisking well. Cook for 4-5 mins until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and add a pinch or two of sea salt to taste. Allow to cool a little before using.

Hipster
There is nothing to stop you going crazy with the spice cupboard. Add a little oil or melted butter as an adhesive and get shaking. Try dried chilli, smoked paprika and cumin, or how about some turmeric, curry powder and celery salt. Be so hip it hurts with truffle oil and grated parmesan.