WEDNESDAY 22ND APRIL
Lizzie and Grahame Hughes have been growing organic produce for over thirty years, and have supplied the Greenhouse since 2000. They were core members of Eostre Organics, the organic co-operative that folded last October (see Trading Fairly: Going Local), and have since set up Hughes' Organics, working up some of their old contacts to found their own company.
Hughes' Organics is a wholesale business, and sources organic veg from neighbouring counties, supplementing it with their own produce, which they grow in a glasshouse near Bunwell, Attleborough, known as Walnut Tree Farm - the destination of our visit today. Three quarters of an acre under glass... a humid environment ideal for cultivating tomatoes, cucumbers and oriental leaves - but it made a few of us regret wearing jeans!
With the upheaval of making a living out of Eostre's remnants, Grahame and Lizzie admitted that they had missed out a growing season, and were only really beginning in the glasshouse. There were a few rows of rocket and swiss chard, and plenty of nettles. Grahame wryly informed us that messy gardens can be very fertile. Indeed, organic gardeners tend to cultivate a few weeds. At the fringes, they protect the crops from pests, and nettles put nitrogen back into the soil, an essential tenet of organic farming. We need to recycle nutrients into the soil to avoid using chemical ferilisers. Good news for untidy gardeners...
Lizzie had kindly laid on a tasty lunch, and the immediacy and freshness of growing your own produce was highlighted when she picked sorrel from the glasshouse and added it to the soup to bulk it up. The honest wholesome goodness of the braised leeks and beetroot shone through. And with the small cost of plants and the miniscule cost of seeds, this meal showed how we can eat fresh, nutritious, organic food on the most restrictive of budgets. As we sat on the grass outside the glasshouse, basking in the sun, it was a real rural idyll.
We were there to learn as we helped, to exchange abour for expertise. Soon Frankie and I were helping Lizzie make a final cut from a leftover crop of Swiss Chard, which they'd already used last year. We sought out tasty leaves and cut them above the root, and bagged them up for delivery. Meanwhile, Grahame gave Andrea, Anya, Beris, Emilie and Steve a crash course in planting, and by the time we left there were several neat new rows of basil, parsley and rocket.
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