The beauty entrepreneur-turned-farmer discusses seasonality, local produce and her favourite British ingredients…
Farm life revolves around the rhythm of the seasons – so in spring we’re lambing, and it’s a 24-hour round-the-clock watch in the lambing sheds. I’m best at making flasks of tea and helping to bottle-feed any orphans. Then, in the summer months, we’re making hay again, so I tend to be part of the support team for the tractor drivers and balers, while organising rotas and making plans for re-planting of herbal leys, soil and wildlife enrichment. We have bee hives to help promote bio-diversity so I’m also learning how to look after our bees now, too.
I love to both grow and forage. I have a greenhouse and cold-frames for salad veg and I grow a variety of tomatoes, peppers and chillis. I have yet to get the hang of cucumbers – mine are always far too curly! Eating fresh, seasonal food really does seem to peak during the summer months (I love summer’s plenty, from scarlet strawberries and raspberries to amazing varieties of lettuces and salad veggies), but then I also look forward to autumn’s berrying, apple-picking and later on, winter’s Brussels sprouts and spring asparagus too – each season has its moments!
We tend to eat most of what we produce on the farm, which includes organic eggs, beef and lamb. As a farmer, I’m accutely aware of the dedication and effort that goes into producing top quality British farm food, so I make a point of shopping at farmers’ markets and using veg box delivery schemes as much as possible. I wish we could all eat more farm-to-fork and avoid over-packing and processing.
My father was in the navy and I spent my childhood living by the sea, so I’m a huge fan of fish and seafood, especially Cornish mackerel and Isle of Wight crab. We’re so fortunate to have so much coastline in the UK and to be able to catch and forage for fresh food. My father used to come home from being at sea and tend to his garden and he taught me how to grow-your-own for freshness and flavour. Even when I was a student I had a tomato plant in the kitchen with salad leaves and herbs growing in a window box.
I love all kinds of food and I’m always trying new places and cooking styles. My husband is half Italian, so we tend to lean towards a Mediterranean way of cooking, but my favourite dishes always combine a variety of different ingredients, such as mixed beans, greens and roasted veggies drizzled with a good quality cold-pressed rapeseed oil.
A juicy grass-fed Hereford steak always goes down well with my boys and I like making fermented gut-healthy foods to serve on the side, such as kimchi and sauerkraut, using garden-fresh veggies like cabbage, beetroot and beans. I also have a healthy addiction to very dark chocolate, which I’m pleased to say is low in sugar and high in minerals, so it’s actually pretty good for us!
On our farm we rear pedigree Hereford cattle as they are slow-growing and produce a very flavourful meat that is marbled with a healthy fat content (especially as they are purely grass-fed). We also have several flocks of pure-breed sheep, including Lleyns, Welsh blacks and Hampshire Downs, as well as pastured, free-range and organic chickens purely for egg laying. It’s hard to beat a freshly laid egg for breakfast!
Eating locally and seasonally often means eating the freshest produce with the highest nutritional value. It also supports our local economy, putting resources back into our rural communities and family farms and reconnects us with some sensational homegrown seasonal favourites, such as samphire and wild garlic.
It’s important to be aware of food labels – the red tractor label means that the produce has been grown and produced in Britain, not shipped across the oceans and just packed at a port. It’s a scandal that this can be labelled as being produced in Britain! Become forensic with label-reading and connect with your local farmers’ markets as much as you can. Even in city centres, there will be farms producing top quality food not too far away. I’m a fan of smart phone scan codes too, which can trace an item back to the actual farm it came from.
Living in the countryside has made me truly appreciate the importance and value of looking after the land, and free-ranging livestock is one of the best ways to enrich the soil, help carbon-capture and improve the earth’s beneficial microbiome of bacteria, worms and fungi.
Liz Earle is an ambassador for nationwide campaign, Love British Food. Find out more at lovebritishfood.co.uk