Kale: A British Favourite

Kale: A British Favourite

A regular in our fridges, Kale has become the mainstay of many British menus. The term ‘Kale’ refers to a cultivar of the Brassica Oleracea Species, however it is more closely related to the wild cabbage than to other cultivated members of the brassica family, such as Calabrese, Cauliflower and Cabbages. Varieties of Kale are classified not only by the colour of their leaves, but also by their leaf shape and stem height. The most recognizable variety, Green Curly or ‘Scots Kale’ is followed closely in popularity by Black Kale (often referred to as ‘Cavelo Nero’ or ‘Tuscan Cabbage’). In 2015 supermarket giant Waitrose recorded a 343% increase on the previous year’s sales of Cavelo Nero. Comparatively, during the same time period, spinach achieved a mere 19% increase. Originating from Asia Minor; the westernmost point of Asia, now known as Turkey, Kale is thought to have been brought to Europe by Celtic wanderers in around 600 BC. In more recent years the leafy green has been championed by British farmers due to its hardy nature. The annual crop has proved resilient in winter and can survive in temperatures as low as -15 degrees Celsius. The plant is also well suited to a variety of soil compositions, but thrives in the mineral rich soil found in the east of England. Throughout the UK growing season (June to March) the majority of British kale is produced in Lincolnshire, however outside this season it is readily available from European Growers. The composition of Kale is primarily water, carbohydrates, protein and fats. The vegetable also contains, per 100g, more than four times of...
Natural Remedies – foods to cure your ailments

Natural Remedies – foods to cure your ailments

Fruits, vegetables and herbs have been used as natural remedies for as far back as records can be traced. But how many of these traditional cures actually work or have any scientific facts to back them up? Hopefully this list of produce could help ease your constipation or at least help stop your cough. Natural remedies for curing coughs. The nutrients in pineapple juice have been shown to sooth the symptoms of a cough or cold. Juice from pineapples contains bromelain, a mixture of enzymes with strong anti -inflammatory properties. It is thought that pineapple juice has mucolytic properties which aid the break up and dissolve mucus. The leaves in the peppermint plant release menthol which can help soothe the throat and act as a decongestant, which helps to break down mucus. Salt, although not as tasty as the two previous natural remedies gargling salt and water can help to soothe a scratchy throat and relieve the irritation. There are a variety of antibacterial and antimicrobial properties in honey. Honey has been shown to be an effective cough suppressant and mixing honey and lemon can ease a sore throat. Natural remedies for a cold. Vitamin C which is found in many fruits and vegetables such as oranges, kiwis and bananas, plays an important role in your body. While consumption of fruits or vegetables high in vitamin C may not cure your cold completely they will help supporting your immune system with the added vitamin The rich orange flesh of the pumpkin is full of beta carotene, which is broken down by the body to make vitamin A. Vitamin A...
Food Art – Playing with your food (creatively).

Food Art – Playing with your food (creatively).

You may have seen our social media channels this week featured some of the warehouse teams experiments with food art. Their creative efforts have inspired us to have a look at the use of food in the art world. There are many chefs who have transformed plating into astonishing food art. A few weeks ago we featured the Dutch artist Stephan Brusch, who makes amazing pop art using the humble banana. History of food art. Artists have used food as a subject through many different art movements.  The Romans and Greeks took pride in realistically depicting food in their art. In Roman paintings a glass bowl of fruit was often included to highlight the variety of produce that wealthy citizens had access to. Archaeologists have discovered images of food on the walls of the pyramids. It was believed that these drawings would nourish them in the afterlife. The renaissance period featured many paintings that incorporated still life food images. Renowned impressionist, Vincent Van Gogh produced many paintings that featured food such as Still Life: Blue Enamel Coffeepot, Earthenware and Fruit, Still Life with Apples, Pears, Lemons and Grapes and Still Life with Lemons on a Plate. French born artist Paul Cezanne adapted the still life genre mixing both traditional and modern approaches. One of the most famous uses of food in contemporary art is Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962). During his life Warhol created a variety of pieces using the Campbell’s soup can as the focus.  The original exhibition featured 32 canvases (510 mm × 410 mm), each featuring one of the different flavours of Campbell’s soup that was available at the time. American...
Carrots – keep calm & carrot on.

Carrots – keep calm & carrot on.

Carrots are a domesticated form of the wild carrot, which is native to Europe and southwestern Asia. The carrots is a root vegetable, most commonly they are orange, although purple, black, white, red and yellow varieties exist. It is believed that they were originally grown in Persia for the leaves and seeds. The carrot is one of the world’s top ten most economically important vegetable crops. Worldwide production of carrots (2014) was 38.8 million tonnes. The Chinese produced 45% of this total, cultivating an astonishing 17.3 million tonnes. Countries such as Russia and the United states (both responsible for 4%) are also large scale carrot producers. A history of carrots The familiar orange carrot is derived from the wild carrot, which has white coloured roots. Ancient Greek and Roman writings refer to edible white roots which could be the carrot or possibly the parsnip. The earliest known vegetable, confirmed to be a carrot can be traced to the 10th century in Persia and Asia Minor. It is thought that carrots were originally purple or white with a thin root, at some point a mutation occurred and the purple pigment was removed which resulted in a new form of yellow carrot, from which the orange carrot was later developed. The domestication of the carrot has transformed a relatively small, thin white strong flavoured taproot into a large, orange good flavoured annual crop. Modern techniques have seen the carrot further refined, with the flavour, sweetness, texture and colour improved. Other modern breading techniques have seen a more pest and disease resistant vegetable. Types of cultivated carrots. There are two main types of...
Cherries – luxury seasonal fruit

Cherries – luxury seasonal fruit

Fantastic quality English cherries have been arriving in our fridges in recent weeks. The cherry was first grown in the UK at Teynham in Kent, by order of Henry VIII, who tasted them in Flanders. The word cherry derives from French cerise, Spanish cereza, all originating from the Latin cerasum, both refereing to an ancient Greek region near Giresun, Turkey, which is where it is believed the first cherries were exported from, to Europe. What are Cherries? Cherries, like plums are fleshy drupe or stone fruits of the genus Prunus. Many cherry varieties are members of the subgenus Cerasus, which is distinguished by having smooth fruit with a weak or no groove along one side. It is much easier to divide cherries into two types the sweet cherry and the sour cherry. The sweet cherry is usually larger than the sour variety, and are fantastic eaten fresh or when cooked. The sour cherry is rounder than the heart shaped sweet cherry. The flesh is much softer and are not suitable for eating raw. The sour cherry is normally cooked with sugar to create pies, preserves and relishes. Where do Cherries come from? In 2014 Turkey was the largest producer of sweet cherries, world production was 2.25 million tonnes for which Turkey produced 20%. Other large producers were the U.S.A and Iran. Sour cherry production in 2014 was 1.36 million tonnes, with Russia, Ukraine and Turkey being the largest producers. 2014 was a record year for British cherry production, with 3,500 tonnes produced, this was more than double the previous year. English cherries getting better every year. Traditional cherry orchards in Kent were phased out during...
Radish – the plant that built the pyramids.

Radish – the plant that built the pyramids.

The radish is a variety of herbaceous plant and member of the mustard family. The radish root is also related to kale, broccoli, cauliflower and horseradish. Radishes prefer a cooler climate and will grow quickly providing the conditions (fertile soil, sunlight and moisture) are adequate. The name radish comes from the Latin word “radix”. Traditionally radishes were eaten to stimulate the appetite and prepare the palate for the upcoming meal. Radishes were usually served with salt for dipping, sometimes with butter and brown bread. Radishes have a mild to hot peppery flavour with a crunchy texture. They can be eaten raw or pickled, boiled and even fried. Although less commonly used the fresh leaves can also be eaten. The seeds are also used as a spice. History of the Radish. Radishes were cultivated first in China. There are early records showing that radishes were enjoyed in Ancient Greece and before the construction of the Pyramids in Egypt. During the construction of the Pyramids the workers were paid in radishes. The Ancient Greeks served their radishes with vinegar and honey and made gold replicas which they offered to the god Apollo. Records show that the radish reached England during the mid 16th century.   Varieties of Radish. There are many different radish varieties, these can be split into four types, according to the season they are grown. They also grow in a range shapes, lengths and colours. Some of the varieties are listed below: White Icicle – A pungent white variety that grows between 5 and 8 inches in length. Sparkler – Bright red and round with a white tip and...
Alfalfa Sprouts – Healthy, Nutritious & Delicious

Alfalfa Sprouts – Healthy, Nutritious & Delicious

Alfalfa sprouts (also known as Lucerne in Europe and other countries) are commonly found in Oriental dishes and can be added to salads, and used to top sandwiches and soups. Alfafa sprouts first rose to popularity during the 1970’s with the Western health food movement. It has been renowned for many centuries for the rich protein and energy giving values contained within. Since the 70’s they have become increasingly popular throughout health focused menus. Fully mature alfalfa plants are too coarse and bitter for consumption, however the sprouting seedlings are tender and delicious and have many health benefits. Originally cultivated in south-Central Asia, Chinese physicians used the sprouts as far back as 5,000 years ago in medicines and during the 1700’s, sailors discovered the sprouts ability to prevent one of the most common causes of death on long voyages, scurvy. The origin of these health sprouts is most likely the middle east. The word alfalfa comes from an Arab word which means “father of herbs”. The sprouting variety comes from the germination process, after which they are ready for consumption. They are relatively easy to grow and produce in large quantities. The mature alfalfa plant is commonly used as a cover crop because it has nitrogen fixing properties which help to improve the fertility of soil. The fully grown plant has been used to feed livestock since ancient times. Alfalfa – Health Benefits. Alfalfa is high in dietary fibre and healthy enzymes that can aid digestion and help balance cholesterol levels. The tiny sprouts are nutritionally dense and packed with vitamins such as A,C,E and K. Alongside all these vitamins alfalfa also...
2017 Six month retrospective.

2017 Six month retrospective.

2017 has been an interesting year here at Westcountry. We have launched a new Plough to Plate brochure and opened a new depot in Somerset. It is hard to believe that we are almost at the end of June. with this in mind it seams fitting to take a look at some of the events that have shaped the year so far. January 2017. 2017 was not a great start for fresh produce. Torrential rain in Spain led to flooding, which decimated glasshouses and vast quantities of salad produce, caused a break in supply and caused prices to sky rocket. The deep freeze in Italy put crops such as lettuce, chicory, baby leaf, broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, rocket and spinach at risk and caused more price rises. January was not all bad though we were sourcing some superb quality English produce including Kales, Chards, Potatoes, Carrots, Parsnips, Savoy and Cauliflowers. Towards the end of the month we began stocking the first Yorkshire Rhubarb of the season. February 2017. February is always a busy month for us as there is a run of trade shows throughout the South West. This year we added to the busy trade show calendar by hosting our second Plough to Plate “Meet the Producer” event. Held at the Royal Cornwall Showground Pavilions, we hosted the event that featured more than 40 artisan producers and served as the official launch of the new look Plough to Plate brochure. This event enabled customers to meet the producers and allowed them to be inspired by their passion for food. The rest of February was spent meeting and greeting existing and potential customers at the...
Kitchen Gadgets – Solutions for every chef.

Kitchen Gadgets – Solutions for every chef.

Anyone who has ever idly skipped through the shopping channels will know there are a plethora of kitchen gadgets designed to make the chef’s life easier. But for every George Foreman Grill there is a Hulk Hogan Thunder Shaker. However some of these kitchen gadgets are destined to remain in the box at the back of the cupboard. After plunging the depths of the internet and the shopping channels we bring you a light hearted look at the kitchen gadgets you never knew you needed. Essential Kitchen Gadgets – Slicers. There is a huge variety of product specific slicers designed to take the place of the trusty knife some of the more unusual kitchen gadgets design for slicing include. The Blancho Melon Corer and Slicer. Coming from Hong Kong this stainless steel slicer is “A definite must-have for your happy home life.” The slicer can can core and slice watermelon in one quick, convenient step. Good Grips’ Mango Splitter. For those who struggle to prepare a mango this device features soft grip handles and  can stone and prepare mangoes with “just one press”. Banana Slicer. Ever struggled to slice through your bananas? If the answer is yes then there are a surprising number of options available to ensure you are able to cut through the notoriously tough  banana. The Hutzler Banana Slicer has been designed with the unique shape of the banana in mind and will easily slice your banana into equal sized pieces. Avocado Slicer, Pealer and Corer. This 3 in 1 tool from Frugo promises to “make better use of your time in the kitchen”. It has been designed to slice, core and cut...
Mustard, one of the oldest, most popular condiments.

Mustard, one of the oldest, most popular condiments.

Mustard is one of the world’s oldest condiments. In the late 4th to early 5th century, the Romans were combining a mixture of ground mustard, pepper, caraway, lovage, grilled coriander seeds, dill, celery, thyme, oregano, onion, honey, vinegar, fish sauce, and oil, to be used as a glaze for wild boar. The Romans then took mustard seeds to Gaul, it was planted alongside grapes in vineyards. French monasteries helped to popularise the condiment and sold it during the 9th century. Maurice Grey and Antoine Poupon introduced the world to Grey Poupon Dijon mustard during the 1770s. Jeremiah Colman (founder of Colman’s Mustard) was appointed mustard maker to Queen Victoria in 1886. Mustard Plant. Although it is the seeds which are used to make mustard the leaves of the plant are also edible. The mustard plant is a member of the brassica family like broccoli and cauliflower. Many Asian leaves such as mizuna and tatsoi are technically mustards. Mustard Varieties. There are many types of mustards these include: English Mustard: One of the most familiar sites in kitchens and on dining tables throughout the U.K, this variety is made using wheat flour and turmeric. It has a hot peppery taste and the distinct yellow colour comes from the turmeric. Dijon Mustard: Is smooth and made from brown seeds, it is made using verjuice instead of vinegar. The acidity from the verjuice gives Dijon an intensified heat and a more pungent flavour. Wholegrain Mustard: It’s thick, coarse texture is made by grinding the seeds to form a paste, but not so fine that all the seeds are broken down. There are many other varieties each with a distinct...