Posted 1st Mar 2017
We talk to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to find out about local food producers in the Norwich area
"Visit the vast saltmarsh plains of the north Norfolk coast at the height of summer and you’re bound to find a regional delicacy. No, it’s not Brancaster mussels, cockles or Cromer crabs, but a forest of tiny green shoots: marsh samphire, also known as ‘sea asparagus’.
Image courtesy of Gloconda Beekman
With its vibrant green stalks, unique salty flavour and distinctive crunch, it’s a popular accompaniment to seafood – local fishmongers used to throw it in free to customers. That tradition has all but died out, but the wild plants can still be picked in the marshes where they thrive.
Norfolk is brimming with fresh local produce, and luckily in most cases you don’t have to wade through a marsh to find it. The Campaign to Protect Rural England visited Norwich to talk to shoppers and some inspiring food producers about the local food in their area.
Most shoppers interviewed (84%) bought local food for a range of reasons, especially to support local businesses and farmers. One shopper was “desperate to ensure that the huge supermarkets do not remove the wealth of choice we have of good quality local food.”
Quality was certainly at the heart of many of the small food businesses we visited. Pye Baker was set up by baker ‘Grimsby’ and his partner Sally in 2008. The recession was just beginning, but they were “confident that the quality of the product would make business sense.” Now they’re an established part of the community, with their specialist breads, cakes and pastries attracting a devoted following.
Image courtesy of Flickr / Jiva
Other local favourites had very different beginnings. In 1983 Simon Edye of Ronaldo Ices sold supermarket ice-cream from a homemade street barrow in Norwich city centre. But after taking a training course, he moved into his own premises and started making ice-cream from locally sourced ingredients.
‘One of the things I loved about starting up the business was all the other local businesses that helped me,’ says Simon. ‘Fruit farmers really went out of their way to give me the best fruit and to supply it in small quantities.’
For those after a more hands-on approach to local food, Norwich Farmshare is the perfect answer. It’s modelled on an old system that was popular in the area decades ago: members pay a monthly fee to support a farm, and receive a share of the vegetables grown each week. There’s a strong community ethos, with plenty of opportunities to get stuck in and help.
‘It’s a great feeling to know the whole chain and be part of it: from the seedling being planted to the produce coming into your saucepan’, says board member Chris Hull. ‘It’s very similar to “grow-your-own” - just that it’s a farm!’
This is just a taste of the local food in Norfolk – and there’s local produce like this just waiting to be found wherever you are. If you’ve been inspired to go out and discover what’s in your area, take a look at the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s local food guide."
Lead image courtesy of Image courtesy of Flickr / Jiva