Veg News July 29th
Bad news first… Thursday will be our last cherries of the 2014 season from Joe Pardoe near Hereford. Hopefully you will agree, they have been magnificent, so be sure to grab some while you can.
On a more positive note, the first apples and pears from Joe are only a couple of weeks away. Expect apple varieties such as Scrumptious and Discovery (bursting with fresh early season sharpness) from mid-August. In the meantime, this week will see a smattering of new French apples alongside the last from the Southern Hemisphere.
Also fresh in are the first French grapes. Our favourite Muscat de Hambourg variety is only few weeks off, but the dark black early Prima grapes are tasting pretty good. As usual, the first French grapes herald a dwindling of stone fruits. A magnificent apricot season is drawing to an end, while peaches and nectarines are more limited.
Locally, Moss Brook Growers are in full swing with beetroot and kale up the road near Leigh. They are also our main garlic supplier for the next few weeks!
Last Modified - 31st July 2014
Veg News July 22nd
Busy week in the veg office last week, so a bumper double-edition of veg news this time round…
Warm weather, long days and heavy weekend storms all add up to an abundance of local produce. This has been most keenly felt at Glebelands in Sale. Courgettes, salad leaves, cucumbers and broad beans are all abundant – with courgettes rumoured to be growing a centimetre a day! Also locally, Moss Brook Growers have begun to harvest beetroot on Unicorn land near Leigh. Broccoli and kale should not be too far off either.
Speaking of kale, the waiting is over, and the new season is kicking in. The bulk of our supply this week will be from the Wasses of North Yorkshire. So far it has been terrific. If you are new to kale, ask one of us for advice, but this particular member of staff enjoys it lightly steamed and dressed with a drop of olive oil and lemon juice!
Too much new stuff going on to fit on the board (!), but other highlights include a continuing supply of beautiful cherries from Joe Pardoe near Hereford, and the start of the UK outdoor French bean season. As ever, check any of the price cards on the display to see where things are from.
In Europe, we have the first French pears, and apples should not be far behind. Always a sign of what we can expect from the UK in a month or so. This weekend should also see the start of new season Dutch onions – expect our main supply from Norfolk soon.
Last Modified - 23rd July 2014
Co-op Members being farmers for a day
Unicorn co-op members have been up at Glazebury helping out the fantastic tenant farmers on our land, Moss Brook Growers. Here's what we've been up to recently.
Laura (June 2014)
My second time at the farm began with a little introduction about the farm and how it operates.
Moss Brook Growers maintain a healthy soil by rotating their crops and planting, among other things, white clover. They have also created a beautiful wildflower bed, a delicious and colourful feast to increase biodiversity.
I was devastated to see many of the broccolis we planted on my previous trip, had been eaten by slugs. We pretty much hoed and dug out docks all day. It was a hot-sunny day... which believe me... it’s not something you want when working at the farm.
I'm absolutely amazed for the love and passion these growers put in. Hats off to them for all the patience, perseverance and hard work.
Debbie (June 2014)
I hadn’t been up to the land for almost a year and the difference was amazing. I hadn’t yet seen the borehole and irrigation system, the wildflower corner or the 60 solar panels on the barn. Plus the hundreds of metres of hedging plants that were put in a couple of years ago have turned into beautiful mixed native hedge, that looks like it’s been there for decades!
Rob showed us round and summarised what they’ve been up to, then it was straight into some hoeing of the broccoli crop. Really hard work, you have to put your back into it especially as this was the part of the land damaged by United Utilities when they laid a huge water main under one of the fields. Mixing up the subsoil with the topsoil plus all the machinery moving around on it has caused compaction of the soil, so it’s really hard to work. I had no idea how different layers of the soil worked, but Rob explained that diluting the rich, living topsoil with the clay subsoil had a massive impact and you can also really see how it affects crop growth (you can tell just by looking at the crops where the pipe is laid).
Our other main task for the day was getting rid of any flowering dock plants so that Rob could mow the next day. They’d had a tractor out of use for 10 days (being fixed) so mowing had been delayed and some had gone to seed – a disaster with docks because they’re such a pest. They have to be collected and burned offsite because their seeds are so resilliant!
The whole time we were working we were surrounded by wheeling lapwings, one of my favourite birds. They have two breeding pairs on the site and others around – definitely something to celebrate as lapwings have been declining in the UK since the 1920’s because of changes in farming practices.
It was eye-opening working with Moss Brook for just a few hours and seeing just how hard farming is. I thought working in the shop was tiring but this was on another level.
More info here
Last Modified - 23rd July 2014
Veg News June 17th
An exciting time of year in the Unicorn veg-ordering office! The volume of imported produce is falling rapidly week-on-week as the trickle of UK produce becomes a steady stream.
Ward and Thompson on the Fylde coast are showing the benefits of growing in polytunnels. While outdoor crops of spring-sown broad beans and courgettes are still a few weeks away, under cover near Blackpool, theirs are thriving. Expect more of both come Friday, along with their beautifully mild French breakfast radishes. They are one of our earliest suppliers, their quality is second to none, it it always an absolute joy to work with their produce.
On a similar note, local salad leaves from Glebelands in Sale are abundant and looking great. The mix is packed full of colourful mustards & endives and cannot really be compared to supermarket bags of loose lettuce leaves, we think it is in a league all of its own. It even contains some slightly wrong sounding flashy-butteroak lettuce leaves!
From Europe, we have been having a few logistical issues getting our goods across the Channel. Apologies for any inconvenience caused, and rest assured we are working hard to solve the problem. The stone fruits that have made it across have been great – apricots in particular are the flavour of the month!
Last Modified - 17th June 2014
Grow a Grocery
We think there’s room for a Unicorn-type store in every city, and perhaps more besides. We have no plans to expand outside the one shop, so we’ve put together a guide intended to help facilitate the emergence of new stores run on similar lines.
Starting a new business is a daunting process. The guide is based on the model Unicorn has tried & tested since 1996, and walks potential grocers through all areas of the business, in the hope that it will make starting a new shop an easier process and help existing shops improve and/or expand.
Read the guide here
Last Modified - 10th October 2013