|We’re over the moon to be one of three finalists for the Best Producer category of the 2017 BBC Food and Farming Awards, announced today on the Food Programme. It’s a testament to the many wonderful farmers and producers we work with – and to the potential of British farming to produce an ever wider variety of foods.|
When we founded Hodmedod in 2012 our aim was simple – to get more fava beans and other pulses from British farms back in British kitchens. Initially motivated by the environmental and social benefits more locally produced beans could offer, we were spurred on by just how good British fava beans are to eat.
Our first assumption on realising that fava beans were widely grown in this country but not eaten here was that they must simply just not taste very good.
How wrong we were! From the traditional Ful Medames and Ta’amia of Egypt – where many of the best British beans are sold – to Moroccan bessara, Italian fave e cicorie, and English pottage or soup, fava beans are delicious.
Among the fava bean recipes that first inspired us was Giorgio Locatelli's Maccheroni nel 'maccu' fritto - fried cubes of pasta and fava beans. We're delighted to have now impressed Giorgio, as one of the BBC judges, with our British fava beans and other pulses and grains.
Over the last five years we’ve got to know many farmers and had the opportunity to explore the crops they grow and to work with them on trialling new crops. We’ve been delighted to find superb foods being grown by British farmers and astonished that they’re not already more widely appreciated.
Carlin Peas were a particular revelation – these nutty tasting peas are among the tastiest of pulses but little known outside parts of Lancashire, Yorkshire and the Black Country. We love using them for traditional Parched Peas but also in curries, salads and even brownies.
This in turn has inspired us to look at the potential for different crops, from lentils, Phaseolus beans and Abyssinian peas to naked barley, buckwheat and emmer.
It’s a challenge to get new crops not just into production but also cleaned and processed for use in the kitchen.
We love simple dry pulses and grains as versatile and delicious ingredients but we are also excited to investigate the further possibilities of producing different foods from these raw materials, through milling, flaking, puffing and more. The way fermentation can develop a whole new range of flavours is a recent revelation that we’re now exploring.
We can’t possibly do all this by ourselves. We’re lucky to have built relationships with many skilled and innovative farmers who are brave – or perhaps sometimes foolish – enough to share our enthusiasm to push the boundaries of farming.
Professor Martin Wolfe has successfully grown trial plots of organic lentils and other novel crops on his experimental agro-forestry farm in Metfield, just down the road from our Bean Store in Suffolk. At Home Farm Nacton on Suffolk’s Orwell estuary Andrew Williams produces our organic quinoa and supports trials of many different pulses and grains.
Peter and Andrew Fairs of Fairking in Essex have pioneered production of British quinoa and are unstoppable in their eagerness to try other crops. In Hertfordshire Tim Gawthroup grows varieties of bean that have never been seen in British fields. Across the country in Shropshire, Mark Lea grows superb organic peas for us at Green Acres farm and has also produced some of the first organic Naked Barley while his son Edward lovingly tends some very special rare varieties of bean.
We work with a wider network of producers who help us to use these crops in different ways, from the essential screening and sorting of the farm crops after harvest to gluten-free milling in Essex, roasting in London, and fermentation in the Welsh valleys.
With the new growing season upon us we’ve lots more in the pipeline. Watch this space!
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Last year (field scale chickpea production year 2) was a real struggle: drought through much of the season, intense heat in late May, then extraordinary rainfall in August. This year (chickpea year 3) hasn’t started much better to be honest: a cold start and prolonged wet conditions are not what chickpeas like.