Order early for a Local Christmas

Last Christmas we had sold all our allotted turkeys by the beginning of December and had to disappoint several customers who had heard how good these Free Range Organic Bronze turkeys are.

medium roast turkey

So this year Juliet Holt-Wilson has agreed to assign even more of her special birds to us.  We asked her to write a bit about how she rears such delicious turkeys;

“We rear chicks here from the day they are hatched.  They are grown slowly to their full maturity, and fed GM-free organic grain without antibiotics.  During the day, the turkeys are in fields and hedgerows doing what turkeys do, foraging and roaming about.  They are brought in at night with the help of Blue, our sheep dog, to sleep in airy barns with plenty of places to roost.

We then prepare the birds on the farm to reduce stress at slaughter.  Because they are slow- growing, fully mature and active, their dense meat structure benefits hugely in terms of flavour and texture by hanging or dry ageing.  So we dry pluck, which is labour-intensive compared with quicker wet plucking.  This means we can then hang the birds for a minimum of seven days in a cool temperature-controlled barn.  It’s a traditional process which is difficult to do on a large scale.”

Stroudco is also pleased to welcome back Jo Neale with her delicious home-made Christmas puddings.

Christmas pudding

Jo’s Christmas puddings are lovingly made in small batches by hand in her Thrupp kitchen.  She takes fair trade raisins, sultanas, currants, Bramley apples from her Dad’s garden, dark cane sugar, mixed peel, breadcrumbs, vegetable suet, flour, spices, flaked almonds, grated carrot, lemons, local free-range eggs and of course, brandy!   When the mixture is well-stirred it is potted up and simmered for 14 hours in an Aga until it is moist and cooked. The finished puddings are cooled, wrapped in muslin and then kept in a cool dark place to mature for a few weeks before Christmas.  This maturing process means that Jo’s deadline for orders will be 5th December.

Those of us who have tasted Jo’s Christmas puddings in previous years have already put in our orders on the Stroudco website, but if you want to reserve one for yourself make sure to get your order in before the cut-off date of 2nd December.

To see the full range of local produce available on Stroudco Food Hub or to download a catalogue go to www.stroudco.org.uk or just pop in and see the food hub in operation any Saturday from 12 noon to 1pm at Stroud Valleys School on Castle Street GL5 2HP



Lavender – as a fragrance, a food and a medicine – all locally grown!

Increasingly we are finding that people engage with Stroudco for one reason and then get involved in lots of other ways too.  One example is one of our regular shoppers who then started helping on occasional Saturday mornings and has recently also become a producer member of the co-op too.  This is her story….

Lavender bunch2 (3)

I think lavender is one of the most rewarding plants to have in the garden. Not only is it easy to grow – it’s a hardy perennial that largely takes care of itself, given a sunny well drained position – it is also the perfect plant to attract bees, and this is more important than it has ever been for the maintenance of our food supply.

Apart from harvesting my lavender at the end of the summer, there is little else I need to do. It’s organic because it thrives without any artificial feeding, so I just prune it back in autumn. There are 39 species of lavender, but I only have two, my favourite being the old traditional English Lavender (lavandula angustifolia).

Lavender belongs to the mint family, but is less well known than that herb for its edible properties. I must admit that I’ve never used it in baking, but I gather it creates a gentle floral flavour and fragrance in products such as scones or in sweetmeats like marshmallows. It’s included in the blend of herbs known as herbes de Provence (after the French region where it is grown profusely) and, allegedly, can be used as a condiment and in salads.

Norfolk lavender, grown to make eau de toilette, is a familiar concept, and the most common domestic use of the plant is for its fragrance. According to The Folklore of Plants by Margaret Baker (Shire, 1996) lavender was recorded in 1387 as being used in fragrant pillows for the benefit of King Charles VI of France, to repel moths. I like to use it similarly, to fill sachets, or mini pillows for use in clothes drawers. Not only is it very pleasant to hand-sew attractive fabrics and handle the fragrant dried buds, but the sachets also make ideal small gifts.

This year, however, I discovered another use for lavender. I sprained a ligament in my knee, and to soothe the damaged area a herbalist friend recommended massaging in a scented lavender oil, prepared by steeping the lavender in olive oil for a period of several weeks. It was very pleasant to use the scented oil, and my knee did feel better – though this may have been because of the psychological benefit of the scent!

To buy local lavender, see the full range of local produce available on Stroudco Food Hub or to download a catalogue go to www.stroudco.org.uk

Days Cottage will press your apples and bottle your juice for you

Days Cottage is one of the founder producer members of the Stroudco cooperative, having helped to set up the not-for-profit Food Hub in October 2006.  Helen and Dave, the owners of Days Cottage Apple Juice, run a small business from their family farm in Brookthorpe pressing apples and producing delicious apple and pear juice blends as well as award-winning ciders and perry.

They are now offering to use their juicing and pasteurising facilities to produce apple juice and cider from your surplus apples.  If you take your fruit to their farm they will wash it, put it through their scratter (which cuts up the fruit), then press it in their traditional apple press which produces one 75cl bottle of juice from each kilogram of fruit.  Your fruit needs to be ripe and sound (not windfalls).  The juice comes back to you in green screw top bottles which you can label and give away as Christmas presents or keep for up to two years – just in case next year’s apple harvest is not as bountiful as this autumn’s!

For producing apple juice you need to deliver a minimum of 100kg of fruit – ideally a mixture of cookers and eaters.  Why not talk to neighbours and friends, pool your fruit and share the juice?  If you want to make cider, you can take smaller quantities and collect your juice for fermentation using traditional local recipes available from the Gloucestershire Orchard Trust.

To book your apples in for juicing phone Helen on 07879 226031. Days-Cottage-Apple-Juices

Salad bags and flowers from permaculture garden

We are celebrating another new Stroudco producer this week – taking our total to 83 local food and drink producers!  Helen Pitel is selling delicious salad bags and beautiful bunches of flowers cut fresh from her garden on the outskirts of Stroud.

Helen says “I’m a passionate gardener, with a particular love of growing flowers and food. Sharing this passion for plants and the world of nature has become my life’s work.


I originally trained with a degree in Agriculture and Forestry and started work in the intensive agricultural industry (a case of ‘sleeping with the enemy’ I suppose). Subsequently I have veered towards organic horticulture and the amazing things which happen in gardens. What could be more important than growing food? And what could be more satisfying than growing flowers?


I spent my gap year at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, where I was first introduced to ‘no-dig’ gardening, organics, raised beds, composting on a grand scale and other extraordinarily wacky ideas. A stint at ‘Naturewise’ in London opened my eyes to the world of Permaculture which has become a strong thread in everything I do. My own gardens are always decidedly on the ‘natural’ side of gardening. Journalist Adam Caplin dubbed me the ‘Wild Woman of Cricklewood’ when describing my garden in London.”

Helen works with another Stroudco producer, Seb Buckton to run Permaculture workshops which are great fun, well lead and attract some very interesting people .  For more details of these courses go to www.commonedge.org.uk or phone Seb on 07557 508025.   To read more about Helen’s work go to her blog at eathay.wordpress.com

Eggs and lamb from Stroudco’s latest new producer

Weguinea fowl eggs are pleased to welcome yet another new producer to the Stroudco co-operative which now comprises over 700 shopper households and 85 food and drink producers from around the five valleys.  Ben Carter is the newest Stroudco producer and has started small with only two products but with plans to increase his range as sales through the Food Hub increase.

Ben farms 150 acres of land around Woodchester and Uley.  Although his business is too small to be able to afford organic certification, he has met all the very strict animal welfare criteria imposed by Stroudco and the Food Hub’s management group are satisfied that Ben’s meat and eggs are as good as (if not better) than organically certified produce.

Ben is offering lamb boxes containing joints, chops and mince making up half of the lamb carcass.  He is also offering eggs from his flock of guinea fowl which provide a natural form of pest control in his vegetable garden; pecking up all manner of pests without damaging the plants at all.  The eggs are slightly smaller than hen eggs but with a much higher proportion of yolk to white.

Up until recently Ben has only sold direct to the public but he noticed that Stroudco is very  popular with so many local farmers and small-scale producers.  He says “the Food Hub is a great way of making a direct connection with the people who eat my produce without me having to take time away from the business of farming”.

To see the full range of local produce available on Stroudco Food Hub or to download a catalogue go to www.stroudco.org.uk


Stroudco’s local garlic grower is back online

Several of the Stroudco producer members are seasonal.  Paul Hughes has recently returned with fresh garlic for sale again;   “A few weeks ago, I started with scapes – the garlic flower stalks which are great in salads and stir-fries or can be roasted.  I am now also selling wet garlic which is harvested before the bulb and cloves are fully formed.  Wet garlic is milder and sweeter in flavour than dried garlic and can be chopped straight into salads, stir fries or risotto.  It will also jazz up your scrambled eggs nicely!  The great thing about wet garlic is that you can use the whole thing – bulb, stalk and even the leaves.  As the year progresses I will be selling dried garlic and garlic salt”

paul garlic

Soup made from fresh, local ingredients with no added anything

natures kitcehn soupStroudco is pleased to welcome Lynne Williams as a new producer member and shopper.  Lynne set-up Nature’s Kitchen to provide working people with healthy lunches when she noticed that her daughter Sophie Beard, who had just started a full-time job, was struggling to make lunch to take to work.

She says “I began to provide Sophie with homemade soup, bread and cake, and on the first day a colleague was curious about where she had got her lunch and asked if he could order some the next day.  I sent lunch in for him as well, and it didn’t take long before the whole office had asked to be supplied with my soup and cake lunch.

“I start with top-notch fresh ingredients and make them into soup with no added anything!   I want people to be able to get away from commercially produced foods and find all the health benefits that brings.   Nature’s Kitchen is about LOCAL, it’s about making it easier to make a good decision for lunch and breaking the mid-afternoon slump that supermarket foods create.  I am excited about selling through Stroudco.  I have started with a range of soups including a mushroom soup made with Oyster mushrooms from Fungusloci – another Stroudco producer.  I will be adding other products over time”

For more details about Lynne’s lunch delivery service visit www.facebook.com/pages/Natures-Kitchen

Natures Kitchen is the latest in a series of 22 local food and drink producers who have joined Stroudco through producer recruitment work supported by a Local Food Grant from Stroud District Council.

To browse the full range of local produce available on Stroudco Food Hub or to download a catalogue go to www.stroudco.org.uk

doms oyster mushrooms

Now selling Oyster mushrooms grown in Merrywalks

doms oyster mushroomsBack in April we reported that Stroud based artist and mushroom enthusiast Dominic Thomas had created Fungusloci, Gloucestershire’s first urban mushroom micro farm where oyster mushrooms are cultivated on waste coffee grounds.  We are now very pleased to announce that the first of Dom’s Oyster mushrooms are available for sale on Stroudco Food Hub.

Fungusloci mushroom farm, located in a previously empty retail until in Merrywalks shopping centre,  is diverting commercial waste from landfill, using coffee grounds collected from local cafes as the growing medium to produce these highly-prized and nutritious Oyster mushrooms.

Dominic collects the coffee grounds from Star Anise cafe by bicycle and trailer.  Star Anise (who recently started selling their croissants through Stroudco) are hoping that Dom’s production will increase to levels where they can buy Oyster mushrooms to serve in the café – neatly closing a loop!

Dom talked me through his growing process in Merrywalks:  Oyster mushroom seed spawn is mixed with the coffee grounds; lime is added to create the right ph balance and the mixture is put in sealed polythene growing bags.  Mixing is done in a ‘Clean room’ where an air filter and fan help avoid contamination by other airborne spores.

The bags are then placed in a ‘Spawn room’ where a steady temperature is maintained. The mushroom mycelium – the vegetative part of the fungus – grows through the substrate after four to six weeks in these controlled conditions.

The growing bags are then moved to the ‘Fruiting space’ where increased light and humidity encourage the formation of mushrooms. Harvesting is a simple case of plucking mushrooms from the rows of bags as they ripen, and boxing them up for distribution.

Each mushroom growing bag will fruit at least twice before the nutrients in the coffee substrate are used up. At this point the coffee grounds have broken down to produce a useful compost and soil conditioner.

As Fungusloci grows Dom is planning to take brewery waste from Stroud Brewery (another Stroudco producer member) and use this as the growing medium for Shitake mushrooms.

Being based in Stroud town centre premises, and collecting of the coffee by bicycle and trailer are both vital to keeping costs and environmental impact to a minimum. The infrastructure for this micro farm has been designed and constructed so that the whole operation can be easily dismantled, moved and reconstructed in different premises. Dom hopes that the unique processes and produce of the farm will stimulate interest in and raise awareness of healthy and sustainable local food production.

Another new Stroudco producer member is Peter Richardson who works partly in IT and partly in gardening – see stroudgardener.co.uk.  He has been providing technical backup with the Stroudco shop software for a few years, but prefers growing plants, and is obsessed with growing food!  He is selling seasonal food plants. During May and early June he has several varieties of tomato plant available, including his own favourite, Sungold – a very sweet and exceptionally tasty orange cherry tomato.   He is also currently selling squash plants (butternut, crown prince and sweet dumpling) and melon and cucumber plants along with his favourite food plant, Red Russian Kale.

To browse the full range of local produce available on Stroudco Food Hub or to download a catalogue go to www.stroudco.org.uk