Buried in brassicas

Our sales are about 20 per cent down on predictions. Combined with a mild autumn, this has left us buried under a tsunami of the most perfect, bountiful Savoy cabbages, cauliflowers, kale, and leeks, with not enough cooks to eat them.

The contents of our winter veg boxes were planned, seeds bought, and land allocated over a year ago, in the depths of the Covid lockdowns, when sales were booming.

Futurologists suggested that the changes in our behaviour (living a simpler life, staying at home baking our own sourdough) were here to stay. They were wrong; kitchen behaviour has reverted to pre-Covid patterns, as we all exercise our liberty, eat out, plan less, and spend more time away from home. In retrospect, it was naïve to expect anything else.

Our sales are about 20 per cent down on the predictions made in those extraordinary times. Combined with a mild autumn, this has left us buried under a tsunami of the most perfect, bountiful Savoy cabbages, cauliflowers, kale, and leeks, with not enough cooks to eat them.

The summer drought slowed crops down and delayed planting, but bacteria and fungi continued to break down organic matter and accumulate nutrients in the soil. When the rain finally came, it was accompanied by the mildest autumn I can remember, and good light levels; fed by that surfeit of nutrients, crops have grown at extraordinary rates, catching up on lost time then rushing ahead. Compounded by the lower-than-expected sales, we have a substantial glut on our hands.

Within the norms of a brutal, wasteful market, this would be the grower’s problem and they would suffer the loss – but after years of being ruthlessly screwed by supermarket buyers myself, I am determined that Riverford will do better.

Unique in our industry, our Supplier Charter (read it here) states: “We will honour the price and volume agreed when a programme is offered, regardless of what happens subsequently.” We will keep that promise – partly because promises matter, and partly because we have been working with many of these growers for 20 years, and want them to be here for another 20.

Riverford will take much of the hit, but I am also pleading for a little tolerance from our customers; they will find their boxes fuller, greener, and leafier, with fewer of the imported peppers, aubergines and tomatoes that you might appreciate. I am hoping they will sacrifice some choice to help us do the honourable thing; together, we might even grow and eat our way to a kinder, more sustainable world.

Even better, if you know anyone else who might enjoy a leafy organic veg box (and a tree planted in your name, plus £15 credit each), send them our way at riverford.co.uk/refer.

Brassica recipes:


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  1. I was at Vegfest on Saturday. Every time I passed the Riverford Stand your reps were talking to people, hope this translated into more customers to buy your fruit and veg.

  2. More than happy to move towards more greens for a bit. Sorry to hear about the glut. Might buy extra cauliflowers and try freezing rice. Can you shift some of the surplus by offering a good discount? Hope it doesn’t get wasted!

  3. Last week’s Riverford cauli was the biggest I’ve ever had – the two of us had three substantial meals from it (cauli cheese, cauli & tomato quiche, cauli & potato gratin). We’ve ordered another this week (to help with the glut), but we’re running out of (vegetarian) recipes. Any ideas?

  4. We are also really enjoying all the cabbages etc. I would much rather have mostly local veg than lots of out of season produce and we have often thought Riverford was a bit short on greens. Extra large cabbage, cauliflower and leeks all in our medium-sized box a few weeks ago has been a bit of a struggle for 2 of us though, so I’ve only had a small box the last couple of times to catch up. Hope you manage to find good homes for everything.

  5. Would it be possible to have a ‘glut’section on offer at a discount? The downturn in orders may be due to cost of living problems. I’ve even considered stopping Riverford orders and certainly I don’t add as many items to my box as I used to because of need to cut back on expense.


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