Where to buy locally sourced veg grown around north London

Veg box

Veg boxes, farm shops and growers around London are making sure we can access sustainably sourced greens - Credit: Julia Kirby-Smith

Whether you like your greens or not, there's no excuse for not eating your five a day in North London.

We’re surrounded by green grocers and supermarkets selling fresh produce 24/7, and even the smallest corner shop will probably offer tropical fruits and fresh salad year round.

But with many of us concerned about the environmental impact of shipping tomatoes from Spain and avocados from Mexico - as well as the habitat destruction, and the potential exploitation of agricultural workers overseas  - the appetite for seasonal and local is increasing.

A survey last year for Waitrose found that almost 75% of consumers want retailers to source more food from British farmers.

Locally sourced green beans

Sustainably sourced beans - Credit: Julia Kirby-Smith

So what are your options if you want to make sure your fruit and veg is locally or even London grown?

You can start with microgreens: nutritious shoots that are one of the most viable crops in London’s cramped landscape.

Micro Farm N15 in Haringey (www.facebook.com/microfarmN15) grows pea, radish, broccoli and sunflower shoots - all great for adding crunch and colour to your cooking. Urban farmers Mafê and Nikos deliver by bike, as well as selling at local delis and farmer’s markets.

asparagus

Asparagus - Credit: Julia Kirby-Smith

Crate to Plate (cratetoplate.farm)is a London start-up founded by Sebastien Sainsbury of the supermarket dynasty, which grows leafy greens in shipping containers next to Canary Wharf. They use vertical farming and hydroponic technology - which they say requires relatively small amounts of water and no pesticides. Their produce includes lettuce, rocket, kale and herbs, and they’ve just started delivering to London Zones 1-3.

If you prefer your vegetables to be grown in soil rather than specially-mixed nutrients, two of the largest sites in North London are Forty Hall Farm in Enfield (www.fortyhallfarm.org.uk) and Wolves Lane Horticultural Centre in Wood Green (www.wolveslane.org). Both have long histories of growing food, and working closely with their local communities and volunteers. Forty Hall Farm is well worth a visit to walk around or for their monthly farmer’s market.

If you want a veg box, you can also look for local options rather than Riverford or Able & Cole. North London schemes include Kentish Town Veg Box (vegbox.org.uk) Crop Drop and Enfield Veg Co - while my own Fridge of Plenty urban farm shop in Crouch End (fridgeofplenty.com) offers weekly or fortnightly veg boxes, as well as the option to buy locally-grown produce online or from their Crouch Hill shop.

All of the veg boxes mentioned are supplied by farms like Ripple Organics near Canterbury, Sarah Green’s in Essex and Wild Country near Cambridge - farms that all grow organically, meaning soil and biodiversity are protected, and chemicals are minimised. The interesting link in the supply chain is Better Food Shed, a not-for-profit wholesaler created by the charity Growing Communities.

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BFS provides the logistics for local organic growers to get their goods into London, so that the farmers can focus on what they do best - growing delicious produce.

What we’re seeing in North London is part of a wider UK trend towards ethical and locally-sourced food. Seeking out locally-grown produce is a great way to support community businesses and smaller food producers, while playing a part in shifting our food to be more sustainable.

Julia Kirby-Smith outside Crouch End's Fridge of Plenty

Julia Kirby-Smith outside Crouch End's Fridge of Plenty - Credit: Julia Kirby-Smith

Julia Kirby-Smith is director of Fridge of Plenty in Crouch End and a trustee of the food charity Feedback.

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