Summer progress and organic quinoa

The year so far has seemingly flown by, with so much to report!

Firstly, the quinoa growing in the field is progressing well, and it’s now well into stem extension. This is an exciting period of crop growth, when the quinoa grows very quickly as it moves towards flowering. It’s been helped along greatly by the past few days being nice and warm, but some continued warm summery weather would certainly be welcome.

I took a few days out last week to visit some of the quinoa growers that we are working with this year in the Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire regions. Our grower Emily had a great looking crop, and I’m feeling very pleased with how well she has done. Emily is keen to sell some of her crop locally after harvest, which I’m all for as it helps to promote locally grown produce to the local community. The views over the crop were spectacular, despite the drizzly weather!

I’ve been asked a lot in recent weeks if the quinoa currently available on my website is organic or not. The answer is that despite my product not currently being organic, I’m pleased to announce that we’re currently growing our first organic crops this year working with other UK farmers. Demand for British grown organic quinoa seems to be really increasing, and I’m really excited to be able to offer this product for sale in the Autumn. The organic crops are looking healthy at present, so I’m hopeful we will be able to expand our area organic in 2016 to keep up with demand.

Two of the organic growers we are working with, Mark Lea in Shropshire and John Pawsey in Suffolk, have had a busy time tackling the weeds in their quinoa crops. Organic crop production relies on cultural controls to manage weeds, and these crops have been no exception. These crops have used inter-row hoes to weed in between the row, as well as weed surfers to help cut any weeds that are taller than the quinoa crop.

You may have noticed that we’ve launched our new branded packaging for our 500g bags, which are on sale now! It’s taken a long time to get our design just as we want it, and we opted to work with British artist Joanna Scott to get a really natural look, helping reflect our commitment to the environment. We decided to show off our local area where we grew our first crops of British quinoa all those years ago, which included a hill range called Rodney’s Pillar in the background of the packaging. I chose this image as it’s a beautiful view that we can see from our farm. Additionally, we introduced the fox, harvest mouse and swallows into our design to remind us of some of the wildlife we have seen in our quinoa crops over the past few years. We hope you like the designs, and I’m excited to show the other designs that are in development for our up and coming packets of quinoa flour and flakes!

It’s been a pretty manic few months for filming our quinoa crops! Firstly in April I had a team visit to film for a new Channel 4 programme about Superfoods. It was presented by Kate Quilton (Food Unwrapped) and we had a morning showing her how we planted the crop in the field. We then moved on to a little science experiment where we demonstrated the gluten free status of quinoa grains compared to that of other crops such as wheat. Fortunately the experiment worked perfectly and we got a really nice visual reaction to show the viewer! This programme is due to be broadcast towards the end of June or the start of July, but I’ll Tweet about it as more details are available.

Secondly, at the start of June we were visited by Escape to the Country, to film a feature piece on the local area. We took a quick trip with presenter Alistair Appleton out to the rapidly developing crops in the field, before picking some quinoa leaves to make a salad. We went on to make my new chipotle quinoa salad recipe, which seemed to be rapidly devoured off camera! At present no date has been set for it’s broadcast, so it’s a case of hoping to catch it when it’s being shown.

I’m sure there will be more news to blog about soon, as I’ve got a few other exciting projects lined up for this coming summer… keep in touch!