Posts Tagged ‘seasonal food’

Guest Blog from Kate at Veggiedesserts; Chocolate Courgette Tray Bake

Pudding as well?

Pudding as well?

What a year for courgettes! They seem to all be absolutely enormous and the gardeners and allotment-holders that I speak to seem to be at a loss as to do with them all.

My 1 year old daughter chose to carry a large yellow one around like a dolly, occasionally waving it out of the window or taking a bite, but I’m sure most people have been making soup, stuffing them, making more soup, roasting them and storing excess in the freezer.

By this time of year you may be getting a little tired of them, but don’t consign them to the compost heap just yet – how about putting them into chocolate cake? More dessert recipes with courgettes and other vegetables are at

Kate x

Chocolate Courgette Tray Cake Yields 16

CourgetteChocolateCake 150g raw courgette
225g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
75g unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
85g vegetable oil
200g granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
150ml plain natural yogurt
Powdered icing sugar, to dust

Preheat the oven to 175C and lightly grease a 9” square baking tin.

Grate the raw, unpeeled courgette and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt together in a bowl.

In a large bowl, beat together the oil, sugar and vanilla. Then beat the eggs in, one at a time, followed by the yogurt. Stir in the grated courgette.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to combine.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin for 30 minutes or until the centre springs back slightly when touched.

Allow it to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with sieved powdered icing sugar and cut into squares.


Guest Blog: Plan Your Polytunnel, and Pay Dividends in Produce

A big welcome to Lucy at the Smallest Smallholding. It is fantastic to see food growing on a small scale with enthusiasm for quality and often unusual food. We need more people like Lucy to get out and about and show how growing food is good for the soul, health, and wealth with our Crop for the Shop scheme. So here’s Lucy:luce_yoko2

Here at The Smallest Smallholding – a domestic, backyard project aimed at living a bit of the good life – we have invested in a modest 10ft polytunnel to not only give our vegetable harvest, a much-needed boost, but to also help create conditions that will allow us to expand on the range of fruit and veggies that we currently grow. For instance, sweet potatoes – commonly important from the USA and farther afield – prefer moist, warm conditions that are difficult at best to replicate outside of a polytunnel in our mild UK climes.

For years, I’ve coveted fruit and veg that thrive in warmer climes– so when our tunnel is finally in action, I’m looking forward to the prospect of adding the likes of sweet potatoes, Italian cucumbers, more peppers and cucurbits to the mix. We also hope to extend our growing season either side of the frosts in early Spring and late Autumn, making us just that little bit more self-sufficient throughout the year.
But thanks for a prolonged period of hot, dry weather, there were a few weeks this year when we were unable to get a fork in the ground. Our sandy soil has a tendency to turn virtually rock-like in such conditions, and so we have faced a delay in getting the polytunnel up over the summer as originally planned. It has, however, given us a little extra time to tweak our plans and do a little bit of research, which will hopefully pay in dividends when it comes to harvesting our polytunnel produce. So here are some simple, rudimentary (but important) tips to consider if you’re thinking of investing in a polytunnel of your own.

Siting Your Polytunnelpolytunnel1

Although preferable, your polytunnel doesn’t have to be sited on flat ground. If being sited lengthways down a slope, as long as the polytunnel hoops are level on both sides and the incline relatively steady, positioning the tunnel down a slope shouldn’t present any problems. If you’re erecting a polytunnel sideways down an incline, then things become a little more complicated and it’s probably best to opt for some professional advice ( have a wealth of knowledge about such things!).

Next, it’s time to think about orientation. East to west offers exposure to sunlight all day – great if you want to grow veg that requires the same conditions all year round, as the temperature inside the polytunnel tends to stay more even throughout the day. However, if you want to grow a variety of fruit and veg with differing growing preferences, you can opt for a north-south positioning on your plot, as the northern end will offer cooler conditions, with the southern end warming up much more.

You should also think about the strength and direction of prevailing winds – we are lucky in that our patch is enclosed by fencing, and various types of hedging, so strong gusts of wind aren’t an issue. But in more open spaces, it’s best to locate your polytunnel closer to hedges and natural wind breaks (with at least 3ft clearance either side), to prevent any damage from stronger winds. However, bear in mind that it’s not ideal to site your polytunnel close to overhanging tree branches, especially those that drop their leaves. This is because the leafmould, sap and honeydew from insects feeding on the trees can cause all kinds of problems and mess with the polytunnel cover, causing you more work in the long run!polytunnel4

Lastly, consider how your polytunnel will be fixed; with foundation tubes on softer ground, you can opt for anchor plates, which need to be dug into the ground before construction begins. On hard ground, the foundation tubes can be fixed and bolted directly to the hard surface. If space is an issue, then base rails will be a necessity, as they won’t require a trench to be dug out around the perimeter of the polytunnel to secure the cover.

Take all the above into consideration before you get building, and the chances are that you’ll face a much smoother construction process… at least, that’s the theory!

Polytunnel photos complements:©

Time to grow your own to avoid horse meat

Family Farm Shop

Family Farm Shop

The recent horse meat scandal has made most people realise that the only food you can really trust is local or home grown. Local because the producer will tell the truth about the food they have grown, because their local reputation is at stake. And home grown because you have watched it grow and waited patiently for that, just right, day when you can proudly show the family the fruits of your labour.

So now is the time to get organised for this year’s crops, and even make money on any excess produce through BigBarn’s Crop for The Shop scheme.

Most green fingered veggie growers will already have their veggie patch dug over with rotted down compost adding nutrients to the soil. They will have seed trays in the green house, or window sill, sprouting tiny plants ready to plant out after the last frost has gone.


As an amateur grower my seed trays are sprouting mixed lettuce, beetroot, coriander and chard and getting a bit spindly on the floor of my office as they search for the sun.

This year I have opted to make life a bit easier by using Growrings, a ‘cheats’, raised bed. The rings arrived in the post as a flat pack and assembled by simply clicking together. I put some well rotted compost at the bottom and added some soil improver that was free from my local recycling depot then adding good fertile bought compost on top. This means I have a sterile, weed free soil to grow my veggies and can harvest without bending my back so far.


I have also opted for a green house Growring to help my plants get a head start and protect them from frost and pests. I also have some Poshcloches on my weed infested veggie patch to encourage some early asparagus and protect my chard from rabbits.

Now I just have to wait and hope the last frost is early this year, unlike 2012 when most of by beans were killed.

The BigBarn local food map

The BigBarn local food map

I also hope that my crops will be so successful that I will be able to sell some through a local ‘Crop for the shop‘ shop. To find them look for a rosette on icons on our local food map.

If anyone has some top tips to share please add them below. My tips are:

You can see a video and buy Growrings in our MarketPlace by clicking here. And Posh Cloches here;

For old, unusual, taste not shelf life, varieties of seeds here

And to learn about veg growing try You Tube videos

We, must, must, must, take kids blackberry picking!

This time of year is fantastic for one of the most nutritious, tasty, seasonal, fruits, and they are FREE! Blackberries.

Not only are they so good, but a brilliant way to get kids eating real fresh food, often leading to an interest in other fruit and veg.

Blackberries seem to be everywhere this year and our network of byroads and footpaths allow most people to find and eat a good snack, as well as take some home for a pie or pudding.

Kids love hunting for a prize and a tasty, healthy, snack that could lead to a love of fresh food should be a responsibility we all enjoy. So take the kids out this weekend for a blackberry hunt. Do however leave the ones at the bottom of the hedge that might taste of labrador pee!

How can we protect ourselves from the coming Food Price crisis?

A new Food price crisis is feared as erratic weather wreaks havoc on crops in the USA and around the world. Here are some ways we can protect ourselves from price hikes.

Experts are already predicting a large rise in food prices as rain in this country has caused fungal disease in wheat crops, and in America, drought has reduced Corn yields leading to a sharp rise in all grain prices.

These rises will soon increase the price of bread and cereals and then meat, as the grain to feed animals rises.

I think it is extremely irresponsible of governments around the world not to stockpile grain for times like these. Grain stocks will be at the lowest since 2007 with only enough for 72 days consumption.

So after you have told your local MP to store more grain, here are some ideas on how we can protect ourselves from global price increases.

Walsingham Farm Shop

1. Buy local seasonal food
You need to avoid buying any food that will be affected by global commodity prices. Unfortunately any animals fed grain (chickens, pigs, some cattle, some sheep) will also see prices rise. So find meat from animals fed on grass, which will have more flavour and have a great deal less dangerous fats. For more on the dangers of grain fed beef click here.

Other products like potatoes and seasonal veg should be the same as usual, so significant savings can be made.

2. Make your own bread
Bread prices will rise as the cost of wheat rises. The price of a loaf however will rise my much more than the flour ingredient. You will also be able to avoid all the additives in bread. For more on Real Bread click here.

Or to buy flour in our MarketPlace here

No Cows, No countryside

3. Eat less meat or cheaper cuts
To buy grass fed meat and cover the extra costs of food you may not be able to do without, like pasta, cut down on the amount of meat you buy, or get cheaper cuts. A grass fed, well hung, topside of beef from your local farmer or butcher will be cheaper and much better than a supermarket sirloin joint, that was mooing in an intensive stock shed the day before. To find you local meat producer or butcher type you post code in to our local food map

4. Grow your own
This is really cheap food and a possible earner when you sell your excess via our Crop for the Shop scheme.

5. Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk will often mean a wholesale price 50% of retail. Why not get some friends organised and share your bulk purchases.

6. Cook
Anyone who can read, or even watch a video, can cook. ‘Cook’ means converting cheap, fresh, local, season, healthy, ingredients in to great meals. I made 10 times the quantity of vegetable soup for the same price as one can of soup yesterday. And ended up with a healthier meal.

Ready meals in the supermarket might look cheap but are NOT. For a video recipe see our KIS (Keep it Simple) Cookery video section. Or perhaps, be discovered, and become the next famous chef by adding your own video!

If you have any thoughts or ideas to add to this list please comment below.

How you can help build a new LOCAL food industry

We need a LOCAL food industry to replace the anti-social national food industry where supermarkets are charging consumers too much for food, but giving farmers too little to stay in business.

A local food industry will reconnect producer with consumer and encourage trade and communication. More people will eat seasonal produce and in so doing encourage further production. By cutting out the middle men and supply chain, food becomes cheaper and all the revenue stays in the local economy.

Much better than the average 9p currently going to farmers for every £1 spent on food in the supermarket.

If you would like to help build your local food industry we have the tools and welcome your support.

BigBarn was set up 12 years ago with the mission to get people out the supermarket and build a local food industry.

We are a Community Interest Company, effectively owned by the Community of businesses on our map and the Community of consumers visiting our content. You.

To build a LOCAL Food Industry our strategy is to;

1. To have the definitive database of local producers and independent retailers
2. Give them all passwords to update their details regularly
3. Display them on post code specific maps and get the map and data on as many other websites as possible
4. Provide an e-commerse facility so each can set up an online shop and be within an Amazon type local food MarketPlace
5. Provide a long list of benefits and discounts on products and services to make each business more competitive
6. Set up initiatives like ‘Cheaper than the Supermarket’, ‘Crop for the Shop’, & ‘KIS Cookery‘ to encourage consumers to switch to local and get enthused about cooking.

So far we have 7,000 producer/retailer icons on our map, all with a password to update their page including; video, photos, online shop, etc.

We have 21,000 consumers receiving our postcode specific newsletter, and 440 producers in our online MarketPlace.

We also have around 90 other websites hosting our map and MarketPlace.

To see a partner website click here.

If you would like to help you can;
1. Type your post code in here and tell us if there are any errors or omissions on your local food map
2. Register for our free emailed newsletter to be kept up to date on national and local food news, including special offers added by your local producers/retailers.
3. If your local producer/retailers have not added a video, online shop, joined Crop for the Shop, or got a proper description. please tell them to call us on 01480 890 970 or about these benefits of joining up
4. Perhaps offer to do a quick video for your local producer/retailer
5. Try out our online MarketPlace where 450 icons have added 10,000+ products (you can use discount code BB1 on this page)
6. Add a recipe video to our KIS (Keep it Simple) video Cookery channel to help more people cook, you could even be discovered and become the next famous chef!
7. Start growing your own and sell any excess via your local Crop for the Shop outlet. If there isn’t one on your local map ask your local shop or post office to set up a table and print off our poster. They are then eligible to join BigBarn. (This concept has been a life saver for some small shops increasing their stock and becoming the centre of the community)
8. If you know any websites that would like to have our map, MarketPlace and KIS Cookery and earn through our affiliate scheme, please tell them to call us.
9. If you believe in what we are doing and would like to help financially you can donate here or call us about buying some shares.
9. Please TELL YOUR FRIENDS!! We can make this happen.

As usual we welcome your feedback below, and would like to know if a loyalty scheme would encourage you do any of the above?

If local food is cheaper, and better, how do we get more people to switch from the supermarket to buying local.

Many of our previous blogs have talked about saving money by switching from the supermarket to local food producers and small retailers.

Buying seasonal food, direct, means saving money by cutting out the supply chain cost, and not wasting money on ‘temptations’ like DVDs and special offers.

In these austere times you would expect this to be the major factor in getting people to change. Especially when 80% of people say they want to buy local food. So why do only 25% of people actually buy local food, and what will get more to switch?

Perhaps people don’t know they can save money. Or don’t believe supermarkets are more expensive. “How can they be, with all that buying power”, I hear people say.

Another problem is that most people know where their nearest supermarkets are, but not their local producers, farm shops, or friendly butcher.

Answer: There should be more media coverage, social networking, and price comparison in shops.

And a definitive database of local producers and retailers on many websites, so that people can find their local food suppliers. Like the BigBarn Local Food map. This map has now been packaged so that any other website can have it to look as though it is theirs and earn a commission on trade.

Many people also feel safe in the supermarket and are worried that the local butcher or retailer will laugh at them if they ask a silly question.

Answer: Local food suppliers should make a quick You Tube video to show how friendly and enthusiastic they are about their produce. These videos can then be seen on their BigBarn page.

Loyalty schemes
Millions of people are obsessed with their loyalty cards and points.

Answer: People must realise that any loyalty points are given are paid for by higher priced products.

It is great to go to a shop where everything is in one place and you can wheel your trolley back to the car. You can pick up things you did not have on your list.

Answer; Supermarket meat is not good, and veg not fresh, a local producer/small retailer might be closer and cheaper. Do you need, everything every week, switch to buying local every week for fresh food and leave the supermarket to once a month.

Special Offers
When supermarkets buy so much they have to clear their shelves and often have great bargains.

Answer; Yes, sometimes. More often however they use ‘offers’ to get you to spend more than you wanted and many ‘offers’ are actually more expensive; One 185g pack foe 2.75 or two for £5. Just below a 250g pack is not on offer at £2.50 cheaper!

With their big business status, their constant marketing & UK food standards you can trust supermarkets to look after you.

Answer; when offers are not ‘special’ and very little of your money returns to farmers & your community, do supermarkets really deserve your trust? A local business who’s reputation is at stake will reward your trust and will grow more and employ more local people as his/her business grows.

And now for some reasons to shop locally where the supermarkets can’t compete:

The Story
Wouldn’t you like to know the story of the food you buy? What’s in season, how fresh, animal welfare, where and how the animals have been produced, the best cuts of meat for your recipe, how long has that beef been hung,recipes for seasonal fruit & veg, why is that bread so tasty, what’s so special about that product

Many farm shops have animals for the kids to look at, play areas, picnic sites, tractor rides and some even pig or sheep racing. A great day out while doing the boring old shop!

Selling Grow your own
Many local retailers will be happy to sell food that you have grown. This is a great way for small shops to get fresh fruit and veg and for you to join the food industry. Look for rossettes on icon on the BigBarn local food map for BigBarn ‘Crop for the Shop‘ participants.

Events and celebrations
Many farm shops have seasonal food celebrations and events like ‘Apple day’, ‘Asparagus week’ or regular Farmers Markets to meet the local farmers.

So, some great reasons to try your local producers and make the switch. If I have missed any other reasons please comment below.