Pumpkins Galore!

Last week we took a trip to Hayling Island to see the bumper crop of pumpkins grown on Stoke Fruit Farm.  Sam and his mum Roz run the 300 acre farm and the farm shop.  They started growing pumpkins as a bit of fun a while back when their main crop was wheat, peas, potatoes and sweetcorn.  Now their main crop is potatoes and pumpkins.  The farm has been in the family for 100 plus years. Sam’s grandfather ran it as a vegetable and dairy farm. Sam’s father then took over the farm growing mainly fruit, but twenty years he stopped growing fruit and just grew vegetables.

Pumpkin display

Pumpkins on display at Stoke Fruit Farm

All the pumpkins are planted on the same day, this year it was 5th May, and they grow all types of pumpkins from the Giant Atlantic Pumpkins to the tiny Gourds.

Gourds on offer at Stoke Fruit Farm

Mixed Gourds

Some many different varieties of edible pumpkin on the farm; Turks Turban, Cinderella Pumpkin, Butternut, Celebration, Spaghetti and Crown Prince.  The Crown Prince is light blue in colour and originates from South Africa. The Spaghetti squash can be used instead of pasta for people who need a Gluten Free diet, all very tasty varieties.

They were gathering more pumpkins from the field on the day we visited so we went to see the pumpkins fields.

Pumpkin Gathering

Stoke Fruit Farm gathering pumpkins

This is such a versatile vegetable; soups, pies and cakes but you can also eat the flower if you catch it in time.  These are usually stuffed with cheese and battered.  A tasty treat for those keen gardeners.

Battered Flower

Edible Flower

Super Mario Pumpkin

Who does this remind you of

They grow around 1000 tonne of potatoes a year and store them in a giant warehouses at 7ºC which is perfect for keeping them until they need them.  An average 60 tonne of potatoes is sold from their shop each year, that’s a lot of spud!  A variety of potato from this farm include Marfona, which is similar to Desiree, perfect for mash on a cold winter evening.

The potatoes are sorted at the farm in one giant machine.

Big Red

Sorting the Potatoes

Nothing is wasted.  Any potatoes that don’t make the grade go to cattle feed.

Chicken Chit Chat

Chicken Hangout

This farm has so much to offer, we turn a corner past the pumpkin fields and there are the chickens – free range chickens all producing free range eggs for the farm shop. These girls love a good hang out spot.

Free Range Eggs

Free Range Chickens

 

Interesting Point!

Pumpkins have very little Saturated, Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated fat but they do have Vitamin A, Calcium, Vitamin D and Vitamin B-12 per 100 grams – Vitamin B12 is important for the way the body works, and people who don’t have enough of it may feel tired or have a lack of energy. It helps in the production of healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body.

Halloween – Spooktakular

What’s your favourite meal at Halloween?

Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve) is a feast initially influenced by harvest festivals, seasonal foods. We have plenty of them at Farmer’s Choice. At the moment almost everything is in season. Harvest is a time when we have traditionally celebrated the abundance of the land.

A good old-fashioned bowl of soup goes down beautifully at this time of year. It’s healthy and nutritious – and a great way to sneak some extra veg into the kids. Pumpkins are piled up ready for Halloween so how about a nice Spicy Pumpkin Soup. Don’t forget to pick up your tomatoes, nice salsa topping for your burgers.

A few suggestions for that party feast:

Whatever you choose to make, we have something that will help your evening go with a bang or a BOO!

Dont forget all those goodies we have from The Garlic Farm – Garlic Mayo, Garlic Salt,
Garlic Sweet Chilli Sauce
, …everything you need to keep mischief from your door.

This Whey To Quickes Cheese

On a recent trip to Devon we dropped into Quickes where Joseph Farrow gave us a personal guided tour of the farm.

For over 450 years the Quicke family has owned and cared for the farm at Newton St. Cyres in Devon, (the estate was inherited from Henry VIII). It was only in the 1970’s that Sir John Quicke and his wife Prue, the 13th generation of Quickes to farm at Home Farm, went back into cheese making and built the dairy where their daughter Mary continues to produce outstanding artisan cheddar.

Quicke's Traditional Farm

Traditional Farm

The Quicke’s Estate is made up of 1500 acres of farmland and 1500 acres of woodland. 800 acres of the woodland are managed with Douglas Fir, Chestnut and a range of other species, planted mainly in the 1960s – 70s.

Quickes Farmyard

Farmyard at Quicke’s

Their herd of 500 Friesian x Monthéliardes and Swedish Reds, are free to graze on 285 acres of pasture. The lush Devonshire grass, fresh air and odd spot of rain helps their girls produce around 5,500 litres of milk per cow every year!

Quickes Autumn Calves

Autumn Calves

The milk is then crafted, by hand, into Cheddar by their four skilled cheese makers. Each Cheddar is wrapped in muslin and matures from 3 – 24 months. Each vat begins the transformation of milk to cheese with traditional starters, which were collected from the best cheese dairies in the mid 20th Century. Each day’s starter delivers its own spectrum of savoury flavour.

When ready, the cheeses are placed carefully into traditional wooden racks in the ripening room and turned weekly, to give a uniform texture throughout the cheese.

Rippening Room at Quickes

Cathedral of Cheese

We were lucky enough to go into the rippening room, it was like a cathedral of cheeses.  When full, this ripening room can hold up to 13,000 cheeses – we might need a few more crackers!

Whilst maturing, the cheese can sometimes get cheese mites (an age-old enemy, sometimes burrowing deep into the rind, eating their way through dry, aged cheese). Several years ago cheddar makers used to fumigate once or twice a year to kill them all, but EU regulations banned Methyl Bromide. Quicke’s came up with a solution to ward off this little pest.  They bring the crates out the rippening room and drive them into a blowing booth – it looks like a car port with two holes at the back, the vacuum. The cheeses are individually blown by hand using a high-pressure air-jet hose. The vacuum at the back of the blowing booth extracts the dust and mites from the air, the cheese is then returned to the rippening room and their label marked “Blown – Yes”.

Quickes Cheese

The cheese is graded every 3 and 12 months by hand. Obviously the cheeses are ready at different times; Mild is ready after 3 – 4 months, Mature after 12 – 15 months, Extra Mature after 18 – 21 months with Vintage ready after 24 months.

From Mild through to Vintage, there is a Quicke’s Traditional Cheddar to suit every palette, as well as Traditional Red Leicester, Double Gloucester and Hard Goats Cheese.

Cloth Bound Cheese

Artisan Cheese

Quicke’s smoked cheese is cold smoked for around 18 hours with oak chips from trees on the Quicke Estate.

All the cheese is cut and packed by hand on the Farm

All the cheese is cut and packed by hand on the Farm

After the tour we dropped into the Farm Shop for a cheese tasting. It was clear that we at Farmer’s Choice prefer Quicke’s Vintage Cheddar, but I also really enjoyed the Ewes Milk cheese. Just have to make space on that cheese board for more!

Check out their regular winners at the major cheese shows, both in the UK and abroad.  (http://www.quickes.co.uk/index.php?pg=award)

Check out their regular winners at the major cheese shows, both in the UK and abroad. (http://www.quickes.co.uk/index.php?pg=award)

Interesting Point!

Despite common misconceptions, most people who are lactose intolerant are in fact able to eat most hard cheeses. This is because most of the lactose in the milk used to make hard cheeses is removed in the whey as part of the cheese-making process, making them virtually lactose free.

 The lactose content of most cheeses can be checked by looking at the nutritional facts on the label – any carbohydrate in natural cheese (excluding cheese blended with fruits or some processed cheese) comes from the milk sugar or lactose. Most hard cheeses, such as Cheddar, contain as little as 0.1 grams per 100 grams, which makes them suitable for most of those who are lactose intolerant.

Cheeses with higher levels of lactose include some processed cheeses, soft white spreadable cheese and cottage cheese and some of these may be inappropriate for the lactose intolerant. Always check the nutritional information on cheese packaging for information before consuming and check the carbohydrate content.

In some rare cases of lactose intolerance it might be necessary to completely avoid dairy foods. Speak to a state registered dietician for advice on reducing or avoiding lactose and to avoid any nutritional imbalance.

http://www.britishcheese.com/facts/faqs-31

Calves in the Filed

Calves in the Filed

Sunny Morning at Hill Farm Orchard

We literally chose the best late September morning to go visit Davina at Hill Farm Orchards, nestled in the Meon Valley within the boundaries of the South Downs National Park (another great supplier of UK local produce to Farmers Choice). We went along to check on how this seasons Braeburns were coming along, the sun came out for us as we strolled around the 150 acres (not all of it…I think we would still be going if we did) and Davina enthusiastically gave us the past, present and future rundown of the orchard.

Farmers Choice visit Hill Farm Orchard

Farmers Choice visit Hill Farm Orchard

Davina starts by telling us that the farm was first planted as an orchard in 1950’s. Her father worked at the farm in the 80’s/90’s as a pick your own of plums, strawberries and a cherry orchard. Unfortunately with the changes in consumer habits (brought about by the arrival of the supermarkets), the farm had to adapt to meet the modern fruit market place and pick your own was stopped. Today they grow the best fruit outside of Kent (as per the national fruit show awards 2013 and we will try again this year).

Literally, as far as the eye can see is row after row of heavily laden apple trees, all lined up like soldiers on parade! Davina went on to tell us that they fill 3000 bins a year of apples that’s 1 tonne per 3 bins.

Views Hill Farm Orchard

Outstanding Views at Hill Farm Orchard

The farm has just planted out a new section of the orchard, Davina explained that the apple trees are left for a couple years before taking a commercial crop, if you have fruit trees it’s always best to leave it for the first year, take a little fruit off to stabilise the tree in the second year.  If you do that you should get a healthy producing tree that could last anything up 20 – 25 years (as some of her trees are that old).  There is a section in the orchard of Pear trees, 60 year old pear trees that continually produce good fruit.

After the harvest is over, Davina and two colleagues will go around the orchard and prune every tree and this can take them up to March. This is important to the trees health, and for its ability to produce another excellent crop.

(Here’s a little tip if you have fruit trees at home – Davina explained that pruning should only be done when the leaves have all fallen from the trees, about November, but remember if you cut back hard it will grow hard!)

Hill Farm opened their doors this year for their first Open Day as part of LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming http://www.leafuk.org/leaf).  On that one day they saw 300 people visit the farm. There was a market area with local trade, crafts and produce. There was also an opportunity to see the machinery and have a tractor ride, everything to get the young and older guest involved.

Davina explained that future plans for Hill Farm Orchard include a grand scale allotment. Can’t wait to go back and see how that comes along.

apples bins at Hill Farm Orchard

Apple bins at Hill Farm Orchard

 

Hill Farm Orchards also supply to Hill Farm Juice – right next door.  The apples are crushed and gently pressed on site to extract the juice. The juice is bottled on site to lock in the orchard-fresh taste – no additives except for vitamin C which is used as an anti-oxidant. This is only added to stop the juice turning brown (just like when you cut up an apple).

This is now available online.

Visit to Adlington Turkey Farm

With just a little over 11 weeks till Christmas it seemed the right time of year to go visit Rod at Pheasant Oak Farm to see how our Turkeys are getting on.

Rod’s grandparents originally started farming turkeys back in 1956 and the long-established traditional turkey farming methods learned and passed down shines through at their farm in Warwickshire. The office is a nice mix of the old and the new – the girls are in the old milking shed, a nice touch.

office at adlington

adlington office

After a quick catch-up and coffee, we donned our welly boots and Rod took us on a guided tour of the farm.  En route Rod explained that the turkeys are free to roam now, and that only reason they were kept in the barn previously, and it’s not rocket science, before they reach nine weeks old they can fit through the wire fences!  They can also fly, a couple of turkeys were hanging around outside their paddocks so Rob gave them a helping hand back in.

These turkeys get 5* accommodation with a level of care that is unrivalled. The turkeys are all raised by hand using techniques that Adlington has perfected over two generations.  They seem very content in their open air abodes with access to water and food at all times.

adlington award winning turkeys

free range adlington award-winning turkeys

Inquisitive little guys to, they didn’t think twice about surrounding us and trying to get a taste of the welly boots, not nearly as tasty as the ingredients in their diet; cereals plus whole and natural crushed oats from neighbouring farmers (keeping it local). Rod explained that the combination offers high health benefits to the flock with their slow burn fats ensuring the highest quality and flavoursome meat.  Combine this with traditional game hanging and low stress production methods and you will definitely look forward to a succulent and juicy bird this Christmas.

1st Day of Autumn

Autumn has begun to make its presence felt which usually signifies the return of the English Apple. Here at Farmer’s Choice the Braeburn and Russet have just arrived joining the Cox and Gala making four English eating apples ready to order online.

Instead of just tucking into them why not make a luxurious apple sauce to go with our Boned and Rolled Leg of Pork, or you could follow the recipe for ‘Simple Slow Roasted Pork Belly‘ from Noel Roche on our Recipe Pages.

As an alternative you could create a family pudding – apple and blackberry crumble.  Whatever takes your fancy, the apples are ready for you now.

Farmers Choice Autumn English Apples

Braeburn and Russet

In addition to these products, there’s plenty more on offer in the Farmer’s Choice online store. Fill up your cart with free range meat, seafood, fruit and veg and more and we’ll have it delivered to your door as quickly as possible, allowing you to cook up a free range feast courtesy of Farmer’s Choice!

Send the Kids Back to School with Farmer’s Choice

Sad but true – summer is coming to an end! Yes, it’s time to pack the barbecue away, return your flip-flops to the back of the cupboard and start planning the shopping trips for new school uniforms.. But whether you’re sorry to see the sun go away for another six months or can’t wait until it’s all over and the kids are back at school, Farmer’s Choice is here to help with products, recipes and competitions to ensure that one thing you don’t have to worry about when the new term begins is what the kids are eating.

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In conjunction with English Mum, we’re offering one lucky winner a Farmer’s Choice family essentials pack worth nearly £60 and containing all you need to keep the kids well-fed with Farmer’s Choice recipes after school. All you need to do is take a look at the family essentials pack, and tell English Mum in a comment how you’d serve up the products available – so even If you don’t win the meat pack, you might get some useful ideas for a family teatime! You can earn extra entries by liking Farmer’s Choice on Facebook and following Farmer’s Choice on Twitter – don’t forget to let English Mum know in a comment!

The giveaway ends at 9am on Monday 1st September, and the winner’s pack will be with them as quickly as possible, allowing them to cook up countless healthy free range dinners.

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We’ve also managed to source some handy back-to-school recipes from our regular contributors. Easy Cheesy Topped Burgers are a quick, easy and healthy way to feed hungry mouths after a long day at school – and when made with quality Farmer’s Choice free range beef and fresh vegetables, the kids will never want the nasty fast food alternative again. Macaroni Cheese and Bacon Frittata, meanwhile, is another kids’ favourite that tastes just as good piping hot on the table or decantered cold into their lunchboxes. There are plenty more delicious recipes suitable for kids available from Farmer’s Choice – just visit the recipes section.

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To start shopping for Farmer’s Choice’s array of free range meat cuts, fresh vegetables, seafood, deli products, pantry items, fresh fruit and more, just head to the online store. Farmer’s Choice’s 100% free range products are superior to off-the-shelf supermarket goods for young brains – perfect for the new school year.