So you want to source out local and organic food producers, but small shops and delivery companies aren’t going to flood you with advertising it’s often up to you to find them. Luckily, we have just the advice to get you started.
Directories and guides
A Lot of Organics (alotoforganics.co.uk) is a website, started four years ago by a concerned mother, covering everything from alternative therapies to special dietary requirements, plus a big section on organic food. Extremely useful. Big Barn (bigbarn.co.uk) lists local food producers around the country, some organic, some not. You search by location, rather than type of food. The Green Guide (9.99, 020-7502 1089, greenguide.co.uk) is a set of regional directories for organic/eco-friendly/ethical businesses around the country. The Organic Directory, by Clive Litchfield, is published annually by Green Books (01803 863260, greenbooks.co.uk); the latest edition is just out, priced 6.95.
The Soil Association (soilassociation.org) also sells it, and hosts a version online – access is free, you just need to register. The Shopper’s Guide To GM, by Greenpeace (greenpeace.org.uk/Products/ GM/index2.cfm), is an online guide to avoiding food with GM ingredients. The London Organic Directory (infolondon.ukf.net/ organic) is a small directory of organic and health food stores around the capital.
This is just a handful to get you started; there are hundreds of other such shops around the country (most listed in the guides above) who take care to offer toxin-free foods.
Cooks Delight, 360-364 High Street, Berkhamsted (01442 863 584), is one of the longest established retailers of organic and biodynamic foods in the country. Damhead Organic Food, 32A Damhead, Old Pentland Road, Lothianburn, Edinburgh (0131-448 2091, damhead.co.uk) also runs an award-winning home-delivery service. Fresh & Wild, in London and Bristol (freshandwild.com), has huge stores specialising in natural foods, with lots of organic options. Infinity Food Shop And Bakery, 25 North Road, Brighton (01273 603563, infinityfoods.co.uk) offers a wide range of organic food, including utterly delicious bread. Also worth trying: Out Of This World , Gosforth Shopping Centre, High Street, Newcastle upon Tyne (0191-213 0421) and Villa Street, Beeston, Nottingham (0115 943 1311); Planet Organic , 42 Westbourne Grove, London W2 (020-7221 7171) and 22 Torrington Place, London WC1 (020-7436 1929); Seasons , 10 Hartfield Road, Forest Row, East Sussex (01342 826673) – a Steiner shop (see Understanding Logos And Labels, page 30) with meat and other organic and biodynamic produce.
Meat and fish
Meat and fish raised in clean, healthy environments, without hormone injections or dubiously sourced feeds, costs more but often tastes better – less fat, no sneaky additives on the way to the shelf . . . Below are listed a few of the better-known names who supply nationally, but your nearest butcher or fishmonger may have their own sympathetically-produced goods that beat any of these. AG Millers Real Meat Family Butchers (020-8977 2753, agmillers.co.uk) has been selling additive-free meat since 1992: its website describes in detail how all its cows, chickens, sheep and pigs are reared. It offers next-day national delivery for 5.95. Eastbrook Farm (01793 790460, helenbrowningorganics.co.uk) was one of the pioneers and has shoulder of organic lamb at 7.53 per kg. Graig Farm Organics (01597 851 655, graigfarm.co.uk) started out as a farm shop but now also offers home deliveries of meat, fish, bread and vegetables, as well as booze, baby food and skincare products. The Real Meat Company, Warminster, Wilts (08457 626017, realmeat.co.uk) has, since 1985, been producing meat without using growth promoters or medication regimes, and applying high standards of animal welfare. Sheepdrove Organic Farm, Lambourn, Berks (01488 71659, sheepdrove.com) is one of the original organic farms and winner of multiple awards. Swaddles (0845 4561768, swaddles.co.uk) delivers organic meat and some dairy produce around the country; it also offers children’s specials, such as organic chicken nuggets (7.85 for a 275g packet) or chicken satay lollies. Well Hung Meat (01752 830494, wellhungmeat.com) raises award-winning organic beef and lamb, and aspires to being ‘the Chateau Margaux of the meat world’. An introductory box (one beef roasting joint, half a leg of lamb, four lamb chops and 500g of steak mince) costs 43, p&p included. Other well-known suppliers include: Northumbrian Quality Meats , Monkridge Hill Farm, West Woodburn, Hexham (01434 270184, northumbrian-organic-meat.co.uk); Organic Meat Matters , Wantage, Oxon (freephone 08080 067426, meatmatters.uk.com); Save The Bacon (01604 696859, savethebacon.com), a site specialising in home deliveries around England, specifically organic meat, but it also has fish and cheeses.
Fish is more complicated than meat because the Soil Association will certify as organic only farmed fish, because wild fish cannot be inspected. So you can only really buy organic salmon and trout. The best-known sources include: Deverill Trout Farm (01985 841 093, purelyorganic.co.uk, see page 30); Hawkshead Trout Farm (01539 436 541, organicfish.com); and Kinvara Organic Smoked Salmon (00 353 916 37489, kinvara-smoked-salmon. com). The latter has organic status only in Ireland, not in the UK, but is widely acknowledged to be one of the best in the business.
With sea fish, don’t be misled by references to A- or B-grade waters: these terms measure only bacteria levels and have nothing to do with pollution. There is no single source for the measurement of pollution levels at the moment, but the seas in the north, around Iceland and Scandinavia, are thought to be among the cleanest. The Atlantic is OK in patches, too, and Looe in Cornwall has a reputation for being clean: Abel And Cole (020-7737 3648, abel-cole.co.uk), Fowey Fish (01726 832422, foweyfish.com) and Rick Stein all source from Looe. Fish from other sustainable and well-managed fisheries are indicated by the Blue Tick, the mark of the Marine Stewardship Council (020-7350 4000, msc.org), an international non-profit organisation set up by Unilever and the WWF. You can find on its website a list of both certified fisheries and MSC-certified products. Finally, the Marine Conservation Society (01989 566017, mcsuk.org) produces the Good Fish Guide, which includes information about sea pollution, as well as which species to avoid so as not to deplete stock levels.
Fruit and veg
Box schemes are listed in the organic directory on the Soil Association website (soilassociation.org) or in the directories above, or you can find your nearest scheme through your local food link (localfoodworks.org). Below are some of the biggest and longest-running box schemes.
Abel And Cole (020-7737 3648, abel-cole.co.uk) is a great nationwide delivery service, providing fruit and veg at excellent prices, starting at 9.50, delivery included. It also offers meat and fish. Fresh Food Company (020-8749 8778, freshfood.co.uk) has been delivering organic fruit and veg nationwide since 1994. It now also offers meat and fish. Farmaround Organic (London-based, 020-7627 8066, farmaround.co.uk) delivers fruit and vegetable bags. Growing Communities (020-7502 7588, btinternet.com/~grow.communities) is a north London box scheme set up in 1994. You order and collect your produce, which means reduced prices (starting at 3.50 a week for a fruit bag). It also runs the only wholly-organic farmers’ market in the country (see Farmers’ Markets, page 30). The Organic Delivery Company (London only, 020-7739 8181, organicdelivery.co.uk) offers fruit and veg, and also chocolates, cakes, drinks . . . Sunnyfields Organic (02380 871408, sunnyfields.co.uk) is one of the longest running organic businesses in the UK; it delivers fruit and veg boxes to various areas in the south, with very good prices, starting at 6. West Country Organics (0164 724 724, westcountryorganics.co.uk) offers nationwide delivery of organic fruit and veg; a large box costs 19.20, including delivery.
Wine and beer
Wine and beer do not need additives to taste good: Camra (the Campaign for Real Ale, camra.org.uk) promotes the best beers, while organic wine is gaining credibility. The Beer Shop (020-7739 3701, pitfieldbeershop.co.uk) is enormous and described as the grandfather of beer specialists. It stocks more than 600 varieties, including some organic, and most can be bought online. For the best guide to small beers or breweries in your area, buy the Good Beer Guide from Camra. For wine, consider joining one of several organic wine clubs around the country. The Henry Doubleday Research Association Wineclub (0113 288 4567, hdra.org.uk/wineclub) offers a huge variety of organic wines and beers, from Italian prosecco to Australian shiraz-cabernet. The Pure Wine Company (023 8023 8214, purewine.co.uk) has a decent-sized range of organic wines at good prices; minimum order, 12 bottles. The Shropshire Organic Wine Company (01588 640 442, organicwine-online.co.uk) is a small business run by enthusiasts who specialise in burgundy, beaujolais and cotes du rhone. Vintage Roots (0118 976 1999, vintageroots.co.uk) is an award-winning organic wine specialist; its catalogue is enormous and appetising, ranging around the world and also offering olive oils, fruit juices, beers and liqueurs. And Vinceremos (0800 107 3086, vinceremos.co.uk) has an award-winning website selling organic wines, beers and ciders. So many awards, in fact, that it has devoted an entire page to them.
Chocolate and ice cream
Pure chocolate and ice cream needs no introduction. A few irresistible suggestions: The Chocolate Society (01423 322 230, chocolate.co.uk, see left), run by chocolate purists, who make and import chocolate with more cocoa and less sugar or saturated vegetable fats. It produces its own organic chocolate bars and also sells Valrhona, thought by some to be the finest chocolate in the world (starts at 2.90 a bar). Green & Black’s (020-7633 5900, greenandblacks.com) makes the most wonderful organic and fair-trade chocolate and ice cream. Also available: chocolate powder, chocolate spread and chocolate biscuits. September Organic Dairy (01544 312 910, september-organic.co.uk) has a mail-order ice cream business with utterly delicious-sounding flavours ranging from Butterscotch Crunch through Elderflower Cream to Grandma’s Coffee. A case of a dozen 500ml cartons starts at 40.75, delivery included.
Nothing beats properly-made cheese: the best cheese-makers wouldn’t dream of using additives – preservatives, colourings and flavourings – in their goods. The Specialist Cheesemakers Association (020-7253 2114, specialistcheesemakers.co.uk) lists the best cheese-makers, while cheese shops worth visiting include Neal’s Yard Dairy (020-7645 3555, nealsyarddairy.co.uk) which has been open since 1979, is acknowledged for its expertise and includes organic varieties among the cheeses it stocks. The same goes for Sheridans Cheesemongers in Galway (00 353 91 564 829, sheridanscheesemongers.com) and The Cheesemonger in Edinburgh (0131-226 6215). The High Weald Dairy (01825 791 636, highwealddairy.co.uk) produces a wide range of speciality cheeses made from organic sheep or cows’ milk, which includes pecorino, Sussex Slipcote, halloumi, feta and ricotta. Godminster Farm (01749 813 733, godminster.co.uk) produces fine mature organic cheddar. Caws Cenarth (01239 710 432, cawscenarth.co.uk) produces Welsh organic caerphillies, among other cheeses. Daisy And Co (01749 850 254, daisyandco.co.uk) makes Goldilocks, a soft organic cheese, from 3.30, including p&p.
Cakes and breads
Although the best place to buy bread and cake is locally, there are two or three bakeries who offer mail order and make breads and cakes special enough to warrant the effort in obtaining them. The Village Bakery (01768 881811, village-bakery.com) has been making bread since 1976, and bakes organic, gluten-free, dairy-free and even wheat-free. There is a stiff 5.95 p&p charge, but its Chocolate Almond cake, made with Green & Black’s organic chocolate, is alone worth the extra expense. And Artisan Breads (01227 771881, artisanbread.ltd.uk) makes delicious-sounding organic and biodynamic loaves (plus breads for various allergies), which can be ordered online and delivered anywhere in the country. Its Deli range is sold in French poplar wood moulds which, it says, keeps the bread fresher longer. Finally, the Terence Stamp Collection: created especially for people with gluten and wheat intolerances, the breads are made using organic ingredients wherever possible, and are sold in Asda, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Budgens, and also in various health food stores.
Organic food for babies and children
Lizzie Vann of Baby Organix (0800 393 511, babyorganix.co.uk) is one of the pioneers of organic food for children in this country – still one of the most successful organic markets. Baby Organix caters for four-month-olds and upwards, and its website also has recipes – extremely useful if your baby becomes attached to one particular meal. Bio Bambini is a German baby food made to biodynamic regulations (which means it’s organic, too) and supplied by a handful of organic companies. HiPP (0845 050 1351, hipp.co.uk) baby food actually dates back to the 19th century (read the touching story on its website) and the company is now the world’s largest processor of organic raw materials. It makes organic formula, baby and toddler meals, and rusks. In the past couple of years, two toddler organic meal companies have been born, and both are thriving: Truuuly Scrumptious (01761 239300, bathorganicbabyfood.co.uk) sends out frozen organic toddler dinners; it has numerous stockists around the country (listed on the website) and also offers home delivery. Dinners include Sweetcorn Chowder, Tomato & Herb Pasta, Vegetable Gratin, Winter Veg & Chicken, Cottage Pie, Spaghetti Bolognese and Salmon & Broccoli Pie. A small pot (100g) costs 1.10, a large (220g) 2.10-2.30. And Pots For Tots (0845 050 1351, rollingball.net/potsfortots) operates on similar lines, sending out fresh food with a short shelf life. It also has a weekly stall at London’s Borough Market. Another welcome addition to the market is Peter Rabbit Organics (a children’s brand that promotes healthy food). It makes tomato ketchup, pasta, crisps, fruit bars and breakfast cereals with no added salt or sugar. The range was introduced in Waitrose earlier this year and was an immediate success, so it’s now being rolled out in Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Safeway.
Finally, the supermarkets themselves are getting in on the act. Most now have some additive-free children’s meals: Waitrose has the Food Explorers range, Marks & Spencer the Everyday Eating range (developed with toddler food guru Annabel Karmel) and Asda the More For Kids range, all of which have a low salt and sugar content. Sainsbury’s has the Blue Parrot Cafe range, developed with the Hyperactive Children’s Support Group to have restricted additives. And Tesco has its Tesco Kids range for six- to 10-year-olds. As with all children’s foods, though, read the ingredients listings very carefully, being ever alert for high levels of salt, sugar and fat.
Unbelievably, farmers’ markets did not exist in this country before 1997, when Bath Council joined up with an environmental charity to try out this new American concept. Perhaps it’s just relief at having our markets working again, or maybe distrust of the impersonal supermarkets and their invisible suppliers, but seven years later there are now an estimated 450 markets operating around the country.
Farmers’ markets are simply the producer selling direct to the consumer. Although not all the produce will be organic, it’s less likely to be processed, and you can ask the farmer about the methods used. To find your nearest market, send an A4 sae to the National Farmers’ Retail & Markets Association , South Vaults, Green Park Station, Green Park Road, Bath BA1 1JS, or visit farmersmarkets.net, which lists all member markets. Alternatively, contact your local tourist office. London Farmers’ Markets (020-7704 9659, lfm.org.uk) runs 12 markets within the M25. The Scottish Association of Farmers’ Markets (scottishfarmersmarkets.co.uk) has a useful market calendar on its website, and for Wales go to farmersmarkets inwales.co.uk . The Foody (thefoody.com) carries a lip-smacking list of markets and other food events around the country. Finally, there is Growing Communities (020-7502 7588, btinternet.com/~grow.communities/ farmers-market.htm), an organic and biodynamic farmers’ market, which can be found in Stoke Newington, north London, every Saturday.