Trevor’s search for the perfect strawberry – Dip Your Own does Summer!
Trevor Blake, Senior Chef of Peach Pubs went on the hunt for the perfect British strawberry. He has created a “Dip Your Own” board for seasonal produce. His theory was that Strawberries should be touched and dipped into Valrhona chocolate sauce or Chantilly cream and finished off with crumbly shortbread biscuits. Simpler and better, the perfect strawberry dish. If you haven’t tasted Valrhona chocolate this is a great introduction to the best we can find.
After much research with our supplier, Tony Reynolds, deciding which strawberry could be perfect enough. We found a farm and variety that just works. It’s a variety called Driscoll’s Amesti.
We took to a trip to Lower Ruele Farm in rural Staffordshire to meet Charles Kidson, the grower. When we asked him “What makes this the perfect strawberry?”. He answered, “the variety”, “and how we propagate the plants”, so it’s the nature and the nurture. It a very modern variety, Driscoll’s cleverly breeds these Amesti strawberries in the U.S., runners are then produced from high quality genetic plant tips in Holland, and then they are lovingly nurtured into the abundant plants we see on the farm. The Critchley family has owned the farm since 1975, with Charles joining forces in 2005, where he previously managed a salad farm in Shropshire.
Walking into the poly tunnels we were met by rows upon rows of “table-tops”, which Charles believes to be the best way to grow strawberries. It has two main benefits; the air can circulate the fruit, so it’s free from slugs or snails and not resting on straw where it could easily bruise. Secondly, the ease of picking! Having the plants at waist height makes it easy for the pickers to walk up and down the rows without needing to crouch down. And that matters, the farm employs around 220 workers. The pickers are long serving, they get paid properly. One is called June, she’s 90 years old and worked on the farm for over 50 years every single Summer!
Each tunnel is harvested every three days because the fruit will be different stages of ripeness and only the red ones are picked. It was clear to see which tunnels had been harvested and which hadn’t by the pops of red you see looking down the tunnel! The berries are picked with a 1-centimetre stem still attached (perfect for dipping), and carefully placed into the punnets within the trays hanging from their necks, only the most perfect fruits are picked and any imperfect strawberries (ripe or unripe) are discarded straight away, so as not to take vital nutrients from the rest. The trays of punnets are then stacked onto the trucks ready to be taken back to the pack house located on the farm. Each batch will then be hand selected for size, quality and uniformity. Weighed and packed into containers they are ready for distribution. All of this happens within one day, meaning strawberries picked that day can be on the way to the pub the next day!
Lower Ruele is amazingly eco-friendly too. Nothing goes to waste on the farm; spare land is given to neighbouring farmer’s cows, where they share a reservoir with other British wild life, even the deformed, un-usable strawberries are made into Bioenergy that helps power the neighbouring village – Strawberry Power!
There’s no doubt these strawberries truly look exquisite, with their iconic heart shape and blushing red skin, they are perfectly formed. So what about the taste? I think the proof was in the (sneaky) eating; these are the freshest, most perfect strawberries Trevor and I have ever had the pleasure of eating.
At Peach, we hold our values and ethics very high, especially when it comes to the right food. We care about how that food gets to our plates too, so when sourcing the right produce, we like to find the best farmers. Charles and Lower Ruele had everything we look for: genuine passion for growing the good stuff, care for his team, and looking after the planet.
Trevor found the strawberry of his dreams and we are serving it in perfect simplicity.
Come in and dip yours this weekend! Book a table at one of our pubs www.peachpubs.com.