Beth Druce visits Fifteen supplier Modern Salad Grower.
Modern Salad Grower
A supplier to Fifteen for over 10 years, Beth Druce talks to Sean O’Neil about vegetable growing in Cornwall.
Can you tell me a little about how Modern Salad Grower was founded – what’s the story behind it?
Our project at Narkurs (the farm where much of the produce is grown) started when a friend spotted the nursery for rent and we took it over in the Autumn of 2012. A lot of the tunnels had no covers and slowly, over time, we brought the site into productivity. We grow produce at three areas of land close to our HQ
What do you produce, and what you supply to Fifteen Cornwall?
We grow baby vegetables, salad and edible flowers as well as field vegetables like kales, kohl rabi, collard greens and celeriac. To Fifteen we currently sell our renowned ‘cornish little leaves’, along with pea shoots, mustards, heritage carrots, beetroots, shiitake mushrooms, broad beans and kales.
What growing techniques are unique to you?
We were amongst the first people in the country growing organic micro leaves and edible flowers, and, having done so now for 15 years, we produce these crops on an organic compost were many newcomers use a material recycled from the carpet industry. We were also the first we know of to be producing new crops grown in the dark, mustards radishes beets and peas, using a technique which had previously been used for rhubarb, chicory and kale. Experimenting with plants and techniques has always been in our nature and Brian our lead grower is a keen experimenter too.
What makes your farm and Cornwall such a great spot for all the things that you grow?
The sea air and the mineral-rich soil make for tough work and great flavour. Our dedication to flavoursome varieties and organic growing has been the basis of our business, alongside honesty, clarity and consistency with our customers.
Coming into the Autumn, what’s in season?
Right now we have fantastic cavolo nero, green curly kale, romanesco cauliflower, coloured cauliflowers, celeriac, kohl rabi, coloured carrots and beetroots, baby leeks and fennels, runner beans, collard greens, fantastic whole head lettuces and countless micro leaves and edible flowers.
During the time you have been in operation, what changes have you seen in people’s tastes and the style of food restaurants are serving?
We have worked with a lot of the country’s most renowned chefs and many up and coming ones too and we have seen a healthy change away from very elaborate dishes to a more wholesome approach. We have also seen the food consciousness of the nation rise dramatically since we started. Our recent work with up and coming asian restaurants is bearing fruit and I think we will see a big rise in asian flavours cooked with quality new British-grown ingredients.
Are there any exciting developments that you are working on that we can look forward to in the coming year?
We are moving to a new site where we hope to be involved in the development of a true sustainable farm model built around amazing flavour and quality, whilst maintaining exceptional standards of earth, animal and people care. We would also like to move into education and social development, one of our goals is to play a part in bringing forward new ways of eating, working, living and sharing that contribute to a more progressive and caring society.
Our growers have worked with Fifteen Cornwall providing for the first test meals before it opened and continue to work closely with them today. The support of Fifteen has helped us develop as growers and to make contacts in the industry. Each year we have a visit from the students who harvest and cook on our farm and it’s always a delight. We believe strongly in Fifteen’s ethos and are allies in its social development programme. Here’s hoping for many more years of collaboration to come.