Martin Soble of Carey Organics has been growing at Whitethorn Farm in Herefordshire for nearly 20 years. The farm was purchased as a set of bare conventional fields and Martin and his team have spent the past two decades building up the biodiversity of the site using minimal intervention and a sympathetic approach to the natural environment.
Carey specialise in soft and top fruit, (the name given to orchard fruits) and Martin is a master of the craft. The orchards have been expanded each year and they have experimented with grafting disease-resistant varieties best suited to the region. The farm plants 1,000 new trees each season, gapping-up space in the orchards and replacing older trees.
“Growing organic fruit is challenging”, says Martin, “you’re looking at about 7 years until you get a worthwhile harvest” We are so grateful for his commitment, having witnessed first hand the decline in the number of UK fruit growers as testing weather conditions and a fierce European market make the prospect less and less appealing for many.
We’ll be buying direct from the farm for the rest of the year, starting this week with gooseberries, blackberries, redcurrants and plums and continuing in late summer with apples and pears.
English plums are a jewel of the season’s offer, the trees are robust and tolerant to the cold and unlike apples and pears, they don’t mind very wet conditions over winter. We’ll be starting with Hermann and Sanctus Hubertus varieties, moving onto Opal, Herron and Greengages as the season progresses.
Carey use traditional methods of harvesting – hands and a picking basket remain the most efficient means. They pick the fruits ripe from the trees for a fast turnaround – fruits being harvested today will be on our shelves by Thursday. If you’re yet to try English plums you’re in for a real treat – sweet and complex in flavour, they are equally at home as a lunchbox companion as they are stewed down for a jam, compote or crumble. Our thanks to Martin for keeping this precious tradition of fruit growing alive and well, we feel very lucky to be able to buy direct from this incredible farm.