Adrian and Nigel @ West Country Foods and Teign Valley Micro Herbs
Fruit and vegetables are the staple for any decent meal. If you source great meat and Fish your fruit and veg must follow the same ethos. I’ve always been an admirer of Charlie Hicks’ veg but he has firm competition in Somerset by none other than Adrian Ellis and Nigel Hooper of West Country Produce.
For weeks I’ve been asked by Nigel to visit their new premises and have a brew with himself and Adrian. He also lured us over by telling us about Teign Valley micro herbs – They’re a very small micro herb grower and don’t use any pesticides or herbicides. So we decided to take him up on the offer. John, Dan, Sam and Myself headed over (we thought we might as well take advantage of the free brew!) to the shop for a look.
West Country Produce has really fresh produce and the guys work bloody hard through the night to get the best produce out to local establishments. They have an amazing selection of fresh vegetables and fruit – For a food lover it’s like Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory. A lot of the fruit and Vegetables come from the Bristol and London veg markets which are fantastic and the guys have a lot of contacts with farmers in the West Country, so they have access to loads of fresh, organic vegetables. I think we’ll be dealing a lot more with them in the future. We had our nice brew and set off for Teign Valley with Nigel. It’s set in 30 acres of what was once tomato growing glasshouses. The English tomato industry struggles massively due to weather and fierce competition from Holland, Spain and Italy. It’s an amazing setting: 30 acres of just empty glasshouses (we all agreed it would be a great place to throw a party) and the micro herbs take up just a tiny patch.
Micro herbs are a funny subject to touch on. In certain ways they are used as a little bit of a gimmick. Many people put them on a plate for colour or decoration – there’s nothing wrong with that but the flavour I find, is the most exciting thing. I was always told there should be a reason for ingredients on the plate other wise leave it off. Micro herbs have a use in flavour and balance there not just a trend.
The process is quite simple the seeds are germinated then set in an underlay they’re covered in polystyrene and left for a few days. Once they shoot the sheet is removed and voila they grow. They are very temperamental and the slightest change in temperature and moisture can have a disastrous effect. There are huge fans circulating and controlling air around the herbs – much like cannabis production which made us all laugh. The herbs are spayed by hand and also cut by hand. Truly fascinating to see and even better to taste with the right dish.
Below is a dish we’re working on at the minute using West Country’s parsnips and chard and the micro coriander and lemon balm from Teign Valley.
Pan Fried Fillet of Pollock with Tempura of Carlingford Lough Oyster, Chard, Ginger, Parsnip and Lemon Balm Veloute