First commercial lentil crop in Britain harvested in Ashwell

PUBLISHED: 14:08 05 September 2017 | UPDATED: 14:53 05 September 2017

Farmer Tim Gawthroup and his wife Sandra with Josaih Meldrum from Hodmedod's British Grown Pulses and Grains. Picture: Karyn Haddon

Farmer Tim Gawthroup and his wife Sandra with Josaih Meldrum from Hodmedod's British Grown Pulses and Grains. Picture: Karyn Haddon

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A farm in Ashwell has its finger on the pulse with a harvest that they were told “couldn’t be done”.

Ashwell farmer Tim Gawthroup with Britain's first commercial lentil crop. Picture: Karyn Haddon Ashwell farmer Tim Gawthroup with Britain's first commercial lentil crop. Picture: Karyn Haddon

The farmers behind Hodmedod, a British pulse and grain company, have been unlocking the secrets of this crop in the face of conventional wisdom that said lentils need a hotter, drier climate.

But on September 1, specially adapted combine harvesters went into action and gathered a successful crop of the pulses, which will go on sale in independent whole food shops in Hertfordshire and beyond later in the year.

According to Josiah Meldrum at Hodmedod, Tim Gawthroup’s farm on Partridge Hill in Ashwell has just the right chalky soil and altitude for lentils.

“Tim is a bit of a pioneer,” said Josiah, who also grows a rare variety of red haricot bean on Tim’s farm.

Farmer Tim Gawthroup harvests the lentil crop. Picture: Karyn Haddon Farmer Tim Gawthroup harvests the lentil crop. Picture: Karyn Haddon

One of the reasons lentils were not seen as viable in Britain was the dominance of mass-produced lentils from Canada that flood the market.

But Hodmedod are able to reduce costs by keeping everything local, according to Josiah.

He also claims the lentils - which are the same variety that are grown in Puy, France - taste better than mass-produced ones, with a more peppery flavour.

“The assumption is that it’s a vegetarian food,” said Josiah. “But there’s a lot of people who are just into good food, and I suggest you look up the classic French and Italian recipes where lentils provide real, earthy flavour.”

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