A Bulletin Arrives from Britain’s Chief Nutter.
1. A signal has been received from Jill Webb, Chief Nutter of Allen’s Farm, in Plaxtol, Kent, which belongs to the Organic Farmers and Growers Organization (organic certification UK2). VEGA has special regard for this traditional crop, once associated with hops: our Green Plan for farming, food, health, and the land drew attention to its relevance in growing tree crops yielding proteinaceous substitutes for M n’D (meat and dairy). With the growth in Kent and East Sussex of sanctuaries for animals rescued from cruel treatments at livestock markets and on farms we hoped that the orchards (plats) could serve those purposes in a happy and profitable harmony. That aim has not yet been achieved, but Jill Webb’s message remains buoyant.
2. Jill writes: “Last year we had a reasonable crop of good sized nuts. We sold all our nuts well before Christmas. Our revised prices did ensure that we were able to prune the nuts during the winter. Thank you to all our loyal customers for sticking with us. This year the cobnut trees are well laden, but so far we cannot be sure of the cobnut size.” (As far as we recall, the crop was spared a major invasion by squirrels, but there was a shortage of human harvesters, this being the Garden of England and an area, with an appropriate county symbol, prosperous with leisure and horseyculture).
3. Jill reports: “We have kept our prices basically the same this year, although we have adjusted the size and price of the 2.7kg size (3kg-£30), 4kg (5kg-£40), 10kg now reduced to £75. Our weights fit the courier prices, so the packs must not exceed the nominal weight.”
4. The term Cobnut can be applied to any nut of the hazel-type; wide differences may therefore arise among supplies. (We have assisted in inclusion of the appropriate definitions in EU legislation). Jill writes: “Cobnuts should not be purchased too early, as the nut may not be fully developed and may taste immature. Here at Allens Farm we endeavour to give you the very best traditional Kent Cobnut experience. Last year we tried cracking and roasting cobnuts. The results were delicious, but in the process 100kg was reduced to 20kg of roasted nuts, making the process commercially uneconomic.” However, “should you want to roast cobnuts use only golden cobnuts, crack them first, and put them in an oven at 160°C for around 40 minutes, leave them to cool for an hour, and enjoy the result (you may have to experiment to get it just right),” says Jill Webb.
5. Altho Allens Farm is probably the only certified organic producer of Kent cobnuts, there are other growers of the nuts in the region. Some greengrocers in the Home Counties also sell them.
6. VEGA presented the Chair of the Food Standards Agency, Dame Deidre Hutton, with a packet of home-grown cobnuts at an open meeting of the FSA’s Board in London last year. She said she was very grateful and liked cobnuts very much. Allens Farm is featured in Rick Stein’s Food Heroes. VEGA has also been trying to interest food manufacturers to resume production of nut butter made with cobnuts. Nut butters were popular in health food stores before WW2 and now they make another dairy-free alternative, with peanut butters, to products derived from animal milks.
7. Allens Farm Cobnuts will be despatched in their green state from about the end of August to mid-September, and golden from late September onwards. If golden are not specified green will be sent until finished; then golden will be supplied. At the end of the season nuts are supplied out of the husk. Quantities of nuts will be the same, but the weight may be up to 20% less than advertised.
8. Order forms and further details may be obtained from Allens Farm, Allens Lane, Plaxtol, Sevenoaks, Kent TN15 OQZ (fax 01732 812219). Orders will be taken online via www.cobnuts.co.uk