Please, don't forget the farmer!
I was listening to a radio 4 show on Meatopia where Tim Hayward was talking about the intricacies of wood and its flavour profiles, and how for a lot of chefs it is as much important an ingredient in their consideration. It strikes me then, that depending on how far you stretch your conception of what makes the dish in front of you, a farmer is as much a chef as anyone else. Their choice of microbial and fungal inoculations, the feed that they use, when they decide to harvest, among a million other things, all determine the specific flavour profile of a crop (obviously as well as its own genetics and will).
There have been countless moments working at Newlina when Paul would pick off a certain part of a plant at a certain time and with bright, wild eyes, shove it in my mouth. Lovage buds with natural, glistening bulbs of sugar on its pollen head, the youngest shoots of chrysanthemum as their sugars are yet to be converted, fresh, young rocket and rocket flowers in their prime, sap, leaves, roots...
And there are many crops that Paul grows for his own pleasure, because really he would grow anything and everything, but does not grow them for sale as they either take too much time and effort, or they are risky and prone to various issues in our climate. It can all be done however, with a little investment and a little reassurance. Money, sadly, always comes around as the cold, hard wall that stops a grower in his tracks. It's a hard industry, laborious, with very small profit margins. But they are the ones with all the knowledge and passion, and with a little support, they can diversify what is local and what is on our plates.
What's a good way to do this? Ferment! Ferment! Do it!
If you want your growers to grow more aubergines, peppers, artichokes, fennels, soy beans, lemongrass, chickpeas... if you think it'd be lovely to have all these beautiful crops grown locally in Cornwall, then ferment!
It is very simple - lots of plants grow lots of things that are edible. Bean leaves grow in vast quantities and must be pruned to avoid mould. If we ferment them, we can buy them in mass. This means we don't have to buy greens from half way across the world in winter because we have our larder of ferments. It also means the farmer gets more money for their time. So they have more time. What do growers do with more time? They just grow more things. At least, Paul would. He would grow those artichokes, fennels, soy beans etc etc.
It's just an idea, but I do think it's a good one!