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Four Reasons to Order Our Organic Fruit & Vegetable Boxes


organic veg boxes

Little Hadham Stores' organic fruit & veg boxes are a great deal at £12.45.  The other day I went into Waitrose and bought an equivalent amount of organic veg as is in one of our boxes and spent considerably more.  And it goes without saying that our fruit and veg is likely to be more local and fresher.

organic tomatoes
Organic tomatoes of every colour
Making small healthy changes in your life is much easier to maintain than a huge lifestyle change. A veg box is just such a small change which could make a big difference to your eating habits, health and overall lifestyle.  Here are my top four reasons why they are a 
great idea:

Fresh rhubarb, straight from the field

1. Fruit and veg will taste better.
Really, until you have tasted a cucumber straight from your garden, allotment or a local farm, you have not tasted a cucumber.  Veg box tomatoes, asparagus, even the humble pea will awaken your tastebuds and will inspire you to eat better quality produce as a result. 
Because they are not being picked before their prime to be transported hundreds of miles, the fruit veg in your box will be the freshest, crunchiest, and most flavoursome you have ever tasted. 

quince
Quince a great British seasonal delicacy


2.  You will eat with, and so appreciate, the seasonality of food.


It's too easy to get anything you want from the supermarket at any time of the year.  But you are increasing the food miles of your meal, which is bad for the environment, but also not great for you.  By eating with the seasons you are likely to get fresher food, picked at it's peak and tastier.  Importantly it will be more nutritional because it's had more exposure to the sun and the elements and will have increased levels of antioxidants.

The season’s bounty will also expose you to a wider range of vegetables. You’ll broaden your horizons (which have most likely been drilled into you by your upbringing and culture) from carrots and potatoes to whatever’s available that month, asparagus, butternut squash, broad beans, Jerusalem artichokes, quince...
asparagus
Another British seasonal hero, asparagus
3. You will be supporting your neighbours
Our veg boxes are run by Stort Valley Organics, based on an organic smallholding in Sawbridgeworth.  The boxes are supplemented by fruits and vegetables from The Cambridge Organic Food Company (COFCO).  COFCO collect produce from lots of organic farms in and around Cambridgshire. And some things from further afield, such as lemons, or ginger.  They are organically certified, which means they have an annual inspections to prove that all their fresh produce is organic.

4.  And finally our veg boxes are good for the environment. 
Organic production is good for the environment  both for the wildlife in and around the fields in which the food is grown, and for the planet as a whole. 

Organic production is good for your health reducing the environmental toxins that we all ingest along with our food when grown conventionally.
By prioritising local produce, we keep food miles to a minimum, helping to minimise carbon emissions.


We think about packaging, minimise the use of plastics and save on packaging by packing our veg in the empty boxes which some of our wholesale veg comes in – and we hope to re-use the boxes as many times as we can, so please return them each week!






Little Hadham Stores


It's our first birthday.  I've been thinking about what Little Hadham Stores needs to do going forward to remain sustainable.


Since we opened our doors that's what we have been all about, sustainability; from our stance on plastics;


Beeswax Wraps - from £15


to our organic fruit and veg boxes;
Organic Veg Boxes - £12.45

to supporting small local producers;



to how I run the business. We are a conscious retailer, being aware of the choices we make, from how we make our signs, to who we choose to stock.  

It's all our there for all to see in everything we do.   




I am a maker, a doer, not a user, not a junk addict. I believe in "Buy Less, Choose Well". And so I have tried to write down a ethical statement for Little Hadham Stores. It may need updating over time, it may need to change altogether, but the point is to think about these things and so, I want to:-

  • Support sustainable, organic production methods, like our organic veg boxes; artificial compounds need not be present in our food.  
  • Reduce consumption of animal products, and making sure there are high welfare levels when we do consume them. 
  • Minimise packaging, it should be compostable, recyclable or re-useable. Bring your own bags, boxes, tubs, jars, any container and we'll fill them.
  • Cut single use plastics. Plastic is an amazing product in some circumstances but OUR use of it is killing the planet, and WE can do something about that.  Bring back your clean veg boxes, egg cartons and paper bags and we will re-use them.
  • Sustainable palm oil - the West's rampant consumption of this is what drives countries to destroy their rain forests, yet like any other crop it can be sustainably grown.  
  • Supporting local, like-minded business, cuts down on food miles and is great for our community. I believe these suppliers are more likely to be responsive to my customer's needs.  Jigsaw Bakery's organic sourdough is made in Linton , Cambridgeshire.
  • I believe in a co-operative approach and work WITH my local suppliers.  My only wholesaler is the UK’s biggest worker’s co-operative; who have been supplying natural, responsibly-sourced products since 1977. They have ethical policies on the environment, trade, palm oil and toxic ingredients, and regularly review their supply chain. I am very proud to work with SUMA.

You've got to start somewhere right?!

Little Hadham Farmers’ Market - A Year On



It has been one year since I took over running the Little Hadham Farmers’ Market.    Running the market involves EARLY mornings, an aching back and a belief in it’s core values; “To  promote the best of local produce...” established by it’s founders, Brian & Brenda Kain. 


The market is usually on the last Saturday of the month, 8.30 - 11.30am in the Village Hall.  We now have around 200 people attending, numbers have been increasing by an average of 30%.  We’ve a new kitchen regime; the Ladies of the Hadhams have taken over making home cooked breakfast.

We’ve got new stall holders bringing everything from gin to sparkling English wine, Italian food to Indian breakfasts, artisan bread to fresh flowers.


I’ve tried to find the produce our customers ask for; and so we’ve had an unending search for a reliable fishmonger. And new soft fruit producers with more variety.  While I have enjoyed the innovations, I have also learnt a lot, and been incredibly supported by the old guard at the market.  My admiration for these farmers who are out there finding ways to make their family run farms sustainable in these uncertain times is ineffable.



To further support our local food producers Little Hadham Stores has been running since May this year.  Housed in the Victorian butcher's shop on the lights in Little Hadham we have been supplying fresh, local, seasonal produce to order.  An order list is sent out weekly and Stores are open for pick up on Thursdays.  If you are local to Little Hadham, get in touch via the Facebook page @LHStores to join our order list.


I have met some absolutely lovely people, stall holders and customers alike, and I would like to say thank you to them all.  My family have been incredibly supportive too; Neil, Una and Louis are there every month helping, and I love that my children are learning that money does not grow on trees but is earned.



Greengages



Hi, my name's Catie and I'd like to tell you about my favourite fruit.  I am a lover of greengages.


They are a group of cultivars of the common European plum. The first true greengage came from a green-fruited wild plum that are apparently originally found in Persia. However they are a generally seen as a traditional fruit of the British summertime.

Whoever came over from Persia and planted them in my garden is a hero in my eyes, as I love them.

My buddies like them too.  The flesh is sweet yet the skin slightly sharp, delicious.  Their sharp green colour is sometimes tinted by a slight chalky bloom on their skin.

Unfortunately our human servant, does tend to round as many as she can up and disappear with them into the kitchen.  Apparently they are good in jam, gin, chutney, and are great for desserts.  They retain their vivid green colour in cooking, and anything you can do with a plum you can do with a greengage.  Personally I like them best straight from the tree.


We will no doubt have to have words with her about sharing!



Cherries

hadham cherries little hadham stores

I have a cherry tree in my garden.  It looks lovely in the spring covered in blossom, but we never get a single cherry from it as they are all eaten by the birds long before they turn red.  A few years ago, opposite my friend Charlie’s house in Much Hadham, somebody started planting cherry trees and I must say from my personal experience I was sceptical.

But the week before last, through one of the farms I am working with on Little Hadham Stores, I met that someone and he had cherries galore.  Christopher and his brother have grown gorgeous, juicy, sweet cherries that beg to be eaten by the kilo.  They have leased the 13 acres that they've planted with 7000 young cherry trees, that have just started to come into fruit now, and they also grow apricots and brew beer.  Good guys to know.

cherry orchard

They use sustainable farming methods as much as possible, mulching instead of using herbicides, organic fertilisers, and sourcing organic based pesticides.  They keep bees on the farm to help with pollination.  Judging from the growth of fruiting buds in the orchard at the back end of last season and all of this season they have high hopes for the coming two years of production, which should make up for this year.

With a young orchard and short season, they’re not producing the quantities needed to fulfil the supermarket minimum orders.  Which has been a wonderful bounty for us locals.  I’ve been selling Hadham Cherries through Little Hadham Stores, and the Farmers’ Market and they are delicious.

Most of them simply get washed and eaten fresh, but I managed to save a few that were given to me as they were a little over ripe and I have made one of our absolute favourite desserts; Cherry Clafoutis.  Now I am no great baker, but this is a pretty fool proof and absolutely delicious dessert.  The most fiddly bit is getting the stones out of the fresh cherries.


For this I used a paperclip having googled it, and after a couple to tries I really did find it as simple as it seems in the video.

I originally found the recipe in Raymond Blanc's, Foolproof French Cookery.  I tend to play pretty fast a loose with precise amounts, as long as the flour to egg to milk/cream ratio is about right.  Also, I don't like kirsch, so I use Cassis or Black Raspberry Chambord instead.

So, here's the recipe:

Ingredients:
500g fresh cherries
2 tbl-spoons of golden caster sugar.
1 tbl-spoon Kirsch/Chambord/ Cassis

10g unsalted butter
3 tbl-spoons golden caster sugar

100g plain flour
pinch of salt
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
6 tbl-spoons golden caster sugar
vanilla extract
grated rind of a lemon
melted un salted butter
150 ml (1/4 pt) milk
150ml (1/4 pt) whipping cream
75g unsalted butter
grated dark chocolate optional

Oven should be set to about 180ºC/ 350ºF

1.  Stone the cherries and sprinkle sugar, Chambord and leave to stand.



2.  Take a ceramic or cast iron dish and coat the inside in the 10g of butter then sprinkle the 3 tbl-spoons of sugar over it so that it sticks to the butter



3.  To make the custard: pour the flour and salt into a large bowl, make a well and add the eggs and egg yolk.  Add the vanilla essence and lemon rind and combine.  Melt the butter and add to the mixture.  Then add the milk and whipped cream and whip together until you have a smooth batter.  Finally add the cherries and pour into the prepared dish.

As I’ve an Aga I cook mine in the baking oven on the bottom shelf with the cold shelf over the dish for about 35mins.  If by then it is beginning to brown but not set in the centre I move it to the bottom oven to finish.

Take the clafoutis out and serve warm with chocolate grated on top.  It is still lovely cold a day or two later.  Now, at this point a better blogger than I would have a wonderful picture of a completed clafoutis for you to wow over.  But, I had to get Louis to his music lesson and left it for Una to take out of the oven.  Which she forgot to do, distracted by her phone!  So it is a little browner than it should be, however, it still tasted great and as you can see we didn't have any problem eating it.



Little Hadham Stores


Last week I went on a course organised locally by WENTA to help people planning on starting their own businesses.  It was useful, I came away with pages of notes and then found myself needing to just sit quietly yesterday and process.  Because I think this means I am really doing it.  I am opening Little Hadham Stores.  Our old butchers shop is going to become a shop again.

One of the things we were asked to do was focus on the end goal and write what we wanted to achieve, our vision of our business.  I wrote:
A beautiful little shop where people come to pick up their fresh, local, sustainable food and stop to chat and share.

We were also asked to write our mission statement, why we want to start our business.  Now there is a lot to be said here about wanting to be at home and be with my children, as well as wanting to do something worthwhile within my community.  I wrote:
I believe we need to change our relationship with food.  And to that end I want to support local producers that share my vision.

How do I think people need to change their relationship with food and why?  I want to think about that a bit more before I write.  As I want to reveal an authentic voice to these thoughts, not just regurgitate ethical marketing speak.  All in all the course has set me to thinking.

I need to succinctly and accurately describe my store concept.  It started as a spin off from the Farmers' Market.  Little Hadham Farmers' Market is only once a month.  Little Hadham Stores was to be a way to give us all access to the wonderful producers at the market during the weeks in between.  Since then I have thought more about which producers I want to support and why.

As many others have I'm sure, I have also been thinking about the need to reduce consumption, stop filling landfills and our oceans with single use plastic and just generally living with our surroundings and treading lightly on this beautiful planet of ours.

sourdough rye beeswax wraps


So Little Hadham Stores is indeed to be beautiful.  I hate those health food shops that look like medicine cabinets.  And the idea that seasonal natural food that is free from gluten, sugar, preservatives, dairy, e-numbers... (whatever) will not taste, look, smell as good as, nay better, than over produced, cheap, supermarket junk. Ok so price is something that I probably can't compete on.  But everything else Stores will do better than the best supermarket chain.

Little Hadham Stores will let people order from our list of wonderful local producers and then pick up their order all packed and ready to go from our shop.  We have seasonal organic veg boxes, bread and pastries, organic Irish soda bread, hummus, seasonal wild garlic pesto, vegan biscuits and macaroons.  I hope to add coffee, Italian food and dried goods next.

I want my shop to be a place to share good food, and ideas that will help to find more producers and better ways to shop, store and cook our food.  I've already invested in Beeswax Wraps to replace cling film and been in touch with kilner to see if I can stock their jars.

So, as I said I need to get more succinct in my description.  And today my first veggie boxes arrived only 3, but a start.

sourdough rye beeswax wraps

Earth Day 2018


So, today is Earth Day 2018 and what better way to CELEBRATE than with the wonderful Jane Goodall.  

I also want to list My Own 5 Point Plan that I can commit to help in reducing my footprint on this beautiful blue plant.  


1.  Shop at my local Farmers' Market, buy locally seasonally sourced foods.  As I run the market I can improve the accessibility of my local community to the market's produce with a mid-month re-ordering service. 

2. Reduce plastic use, this one kind of informs the rest of this list.  At the market I have already banned plastic bags and I hope to extend this to all single use plastic and non-biodegradable packaging by the end of the year.

3.  Buy a coffee "to-go" cup and use it when I buy coffee, better get a few I reckon!  I've already switched the kid's water bottles to stainless steel, but while on holiday in the US this Easter I saw these great Contigo bottles that seemed pretty well spill proof.  They are also 100% BPA free. They were sold in the US in Costco, but try this link to find them in the UK.

4.  Make beeswax wraps to cover food and so reduce plastics at home.  I have the bees, so I have the wax...

5. Make my own natural cleaning products and buy those that I can't in bulk to save on packaging and choose earth friendly products.  I've been meaning to do this for so long and really need to get on with it. 
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