To mark National Vegetarian Week, Countryfile takes a look at all things veggie, including the threats facing vegetable producers.
Browse content similar to Veggie Theme. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
From sprouts to swedes, parsnips to peas,
we are a nation of vegetable lovers.
To mark National Vegetarian Week,
we've put aside the meat to feast on veggies.
Today, we're taking a look at all things vegetable,
from those who farm these edible delights
to the people who relish them.
It's time to celebrate nature's bounty,
from the simple spud to the colourful carrot
and Ellie is getting creative with her groceries.
There's no shortage of tatties, which is why that bag was so heavy.
Let's get the rocks going.
Tom's looking at why so many vegetable growers say
they could go out of business.
The Living Wage looks, on the face of it,
good for thousands of low-paid workers,
but there are claims that it could lead to thousands losing their jobs.
And Adam's going underground.
-Really strong flavour.
-It is, isn't it?
-Quite a kick to it.
Growing vegetables has shaped our landscape
and is an important part of our economy.
Every year, across the UK, more than 321,000 acres
are dedicated to producing 2.5 million tonnes of vegetables.
We just can't get enough.
I'm on the beautiful, fertile island of Jersey
to find out about the harvest of its biggest crop,
but before I can do that,
I need to take a photo of this lighthouse and send it on to Ellie.
All will be revealed later.
With its warm climate and fertile soils,
Jersey is ideal for growing veg
and there's one crop which dominates - the humble spud.
The Jersey Royal potato has been grown here since the early 1800s
and the locals are, rightly, very proud of it.
At the moment, the island is abuzz
because the yearly potato harvest is in full swing.
All of the farmers are up against it.
They're all trying to be the first to get their potatoes
on the shelves over on the mainland.
This is a competitive business.
Didier and Christine Hellio have been growing Jersey Royals
here for 30 years.
-Hello, you two.
-Hiya. Potato growing.
-One of the secrets to a long and happy marriage?
-I know I answered it, but he was thinking it too.
-I was thinking it.
Good lad, Didier. All right, so come on.
Let's find out all about these wonderful Jersey Royals.
Really, what makes these so special, as far as you're concerned?
It's the taste. It's that sweet, nutty flavour they've got.
And freshness, you can't get better.
Look at the texture on that.
Rub your finger like that. Look how soft the skin is.
All you do, put that under a tap, absolutely straight to the saucepan.
-So, these potatoes that we're holding now,
-when did they start their life?
-Every Jersey Royal potato grower
grows his own seed.
He produces his seed and it's picked in July
and then it's brought back to the store. Then, in October,
every individual potato is de-shooted and calibrated to size.
-Every single potato.
-And then, these...
-This is what, once they've de-shooted them,
a new shoot grows on them and it produces a seed, like that.
That's exactly what's planted
and we start in the second week of January.
-And it's all across the island.
That's the secret of growing Jersey Royals.
The earliest crops of Jersey Royals are planted on steep slopes,
known as cotils.
Today, they're still harvested in the traditional way.
Right, this is a typical Jersey cotil. Very steep.
Incredibly steep. Do you know what?
It's a lot steeper than I was expecting.
They're really steep. No tractors can go down here at all.
-It's all got to be done manually.
-I mean, we're facing a certain way here. Is that all part of it?
That is very important. They all face south-east.
It's to get that early morning sun. It's crucial.
It makes a lot of difference in the growing.
The idea we do in these cotils
is a we've got a winch at the top of the field and it's got a cable
all the way down and right down the bottom is a plough,
-which actually ploughs the potatoes out.
And the staff pick them up.
-Are you willing to have a go?
-I knew you were going to say that.
Well, you've got a couple of rows left, I can see.
-They've got your name on them. So...
-Just for you.
It's amazing that we're here just in time.
The plough looks ancient and is based on a horse-pulled design
from the 1800s.
Hello, mate. I think you've got a break now.
You can have a rest.
OK. I'm ready. Yeah?
-You've got to keep an eye on it all the time.
Bit of pressure, maybe, on the back hand there...
I tell you what...
you Jersey Royal potato farmers must be fit.
We're very fit.
It's wonderful to see this traditional harvesting method
still in use, but one thing's for sure,
the next time I eat those very early Jersey Royals,
I'll remember the backbreaking work
that's gone into producing every single one of them.
On April 1st this year, the government introduced
the Living Wage. Good news, you would think,
for lower-paid workers in the agricultural business.
So, why are there claims
that it could put many vegetable growers out of business altogether?
Tom has been finding out.
A rich and fertile land.
And it really is rich.
Fruit and veg harvested across the UK,
in all weathers, add a staggering £3 billion
to our economy every year.
But with falling consumption and cheaper imports,
horticulture, like many other sectors, is feeling the pinch
and now there's a new threat
which could end this home-grown bounty altogether.
Last month, the National Living Wage was introduced.
It guarantees an hourly rate of £7.20 to all workers
aged 25 and above in the UK,
50 pence per hour up on the previous minimum.
And, with annual increases,
this rate is due to rise to more than £9 an hour by 2020.
Wages could be higher still in Scotland, Wales,
and Northern Ireland,
where agricultural boards still set pay levels.
Good news for workers, but could it eventually cost them their jobs?
So, is there a technique to picking a spring onion?
Just pull it out and clean it up.
Becky Warne has worked as an agricultural labourer in Essex
for four years.
-So, how do you find the work here, physically?
-It is hard,
especially, the weather today is not nice.
-Everything hurts when you get home.
-Is that right?
You've been on the minimum wage for the last few years.
What's it like trying to live on that?
It's been hard paying bills.
It's not a lot of money.
What will the Living Wage deliver for you?
It's made a difference to us already.
We've booked a holiday and saving for a house.
Some people are saying that farms may find it difficult
to pay this wage
and that some of the jobs may go. Is that something that worries you?
A little bit, but I try not to think about it.
So the wage rise is good news, perhaps,
for workers like Becky, but will her boss see it like that?
While 50p may not sound like a lot,
according to a report commissioned by the National Farmers' Union,
it'll add millions to the overall wage bill.
And that's because you need a lot of people to grow fruit and vegetables.
The majority of the UK's production is in England, where almost
half of all farm workers are involved in horticulture.
Then, a whopping 91% of all seasonal labourers on our farms
also work in the same sector.
So, depending on the crop -
spring onions, say, are more labour-intensive than cabbages -
growers' wage bills make up between
35% and 60% of their annual turnovers.
But horticulture comes with small profit margins,
normally between 2% and 8%,
and that makes for some difficult sums
if you are trying to run a business.
It's this combination, warns the NFU,
that could see profits wiped out in just four years,
threatening the very existence of the UK horticultural industry.
This 400-acre fruit and veg farm in Essex
is run by Peter Thompson.
It's been in his family for three generations
and, yes, it's Peter who is Becky's boss.
He employs 20 to 30 staff all year round
and tops that up to around 60 with seasonal workers at peak times.
What did you feel when you first heard about
the National Living Wage?
Erm, I was sitting and listening to George Osborne that evening and...
it sounded good and then I did a bit of fag-packet maths and...
it's pretty clear that it would mean we were
financially unsustainable within four years.
-Really? That stark? Just like that?
-Yeah. Just like that.
Wages are 45% of our turnover
and you extrapolate those costs back over the last four years,
and we wouldn't have made a profit.
And in the context of decreasing prices over the next four years,
we won't either.
And, so, what could that mean for your business?
It could be curtains.
We will have to do something pretty radical.
We're going to have to change the way we work.
We'll have to either innovate or...
or move production elsewhere.
Move production elsewhere?
..is a realistic proposition.
Wage costs are a quarter of what they are here,
so we either export production
or we mechanise and automate and also cut jobs.
Is it a genuine possibility of moving overseas,
or is it just an empty threat?
It's a real possibility. We are looking, other growers are looking.
It would be a real wrench,
but we've got a responsibility to keep the business going
and to look after the people that work here now.
The only way we can do that is by ensuring we have a product.
Have you been to your buyers and asked them
if they'll pay a little more for it?
We've had a very clear message that they are unable to pay more.
There is severe competition,
whether it be food service or retail.
There isn't any money in the pot.
It's a bleak picture for UK fruit and veg producers,
but it could be even bleaker for the very workers
the Living Wage is meant to help.
Later, I'll be looking at what can be done to help
the horticulture industry manage this higher wage bill.
Now, last year, Naomi Wilkinson was one of the judges
in the Countryfile photo competition.
Today, she is back.
I enjoy my meat and three veg.
A roast dinner is a firm favourite.
But today, I'm up for a new experience.
I'm visiting an award-winning restaurant
in the West Yorkshire village of Drighlington.
It's one of a wave of Indian restaurants all over the country
that's breaking the mould of the traditional British curry house.
Here, you won't find a bhuna, a masala or a dopiaza.
But you will be tempted by the mouthwatering flavours
and textures of some of the best Indian food in the country.
And it's all vegetarian.
'The restaurant is owned and run by Bobby Patel and his wife Minal.'
We've just had a delivery. Come and give us a hand.
You might regret asking me into your kitchen, but, yeah, OK.
'Minal grew up in India and her food is inspired by
'traditional Hindu cooking from the Gujarat region.
'As you might expect,
'many of her ingredients come from far-flung corners of the globe.'
What are these ones?
drumstick and especially goes in my lentil soup.
Yep. Never seen one of those before.
'But with Yorkshire's bounty on the doorstep,
'Minal also uses plenty of local seasonal produce in her recipes
'and, at this time of year, that means one thing.
'This part of Yorkshire is often called the Rhubarb Triangle.
'Much of the country's forced rhubarb is grown in sheds here.
'Although that season has just finished,
'there's now plenty of rhubarb growing out in the fields.
'Bobby and Minal don't often have time to visit their growers,
'but today, I'm taking them to see how the rhubarb they use
'in their cooking is grown and harvested.'
'Janet Oldroyd Hulme's family have been growing rhubarb
'on this land for five generations.'
Could I introduce you to Bobby and Minal?
None of us have been to a rhubarb farm before,
so can you teach us how to harvest it?
Yeah. You pull rhubarb, you don't cut it.
You get close to the ground and you pull and twist.
And then scrape off the butts,
that's when the knife comes in,
and you take the leaf off.
So, why does the rhubarb grow so well, here in Yorkshire?
Well, the soil is perfect.
The Pennines gives us a high rainfall and the plant likes cold.
Rhubarb, being a vegetable, it goes well in chutneys.
It makes superb salsas and things like that.
-Probably with a few spices, then.
-It goes particularly well in curries.
-Yeah, it does.
-So I'm glad you've come today to see how we grow it.
It's lovely to see. It's amazing.
'Back at the restaurant, it's time to get cracking.'
That's not actually cutting.
'Although, cooking is not my strong point.'
'We're using the rhubarb to make a sizzler -
'a traditional Indian starter with a very local twist.
'The ingredients include sorghum and chickpea flour,
'a masala paste, made from ginger, chilli and garlic,
'plus, herbs and spices and, of course, the rhubarb.'
-It's quite strong.
'If you're a better cook than me
'and fancy making this dish yourself,
'the recipe is on our website.'
So, Bobby, why are you vegetarian?
It's our culture. All over India, if you speak to anyone,
Gujaratis are known for their food.
-It's famous. So that's vegetarian, which is what we are.
I always keep it in my mind, whatever I am creating.
-I use traditional recipes.
Whatever comes in season, I try to use that.
-I think you will like it.
And what do you have to do taste for?
Taste for...sweet and sourness.
That's a good combination. Yeah.
That works. That's beautiful.
-It does work, right?
Do you find it discourages people from visiting, that it's vegetarian?
Typically, you will have one person on the table
who looks like they've been dragged here or...
By the time they've had their starters,
they're the ones who want to ask us about our history -
"Where did this food come from?
"I can't believe that I'm eating something like this."
So it's lovely. It's lovely when we get that.
-Is that all right?
I couldn't spend all that time in the kitchen
without seeing what it tastes like.
And here we have...
-The rhubarb sizzler.
-..the rhubarb sizzler, which is rhubarb
on a bed of sizzling onions, with rocket and some truffle oil.
-Thank you so much.
If it tastes anything as good as it tasted before it was cooked,
this is going to be good.
The food is absolutely incredible.
The fact that there isn't a steak or a sausage in sight
doesn't matter one bit.
And for all you avid meat-eaters out there...
try it. You might like it.
I'm on Jersey, where their potato harvest is well under way
and everybody on the island is getting involved.
Now, for the last ten years,
all 32 schools on the island have taken part in the annual
Jersey Royal Potato Growing Competition,
with the biggest number and the largest weight
going forward to win the coveted title.
And it's weighing day here at St Lawrence's School.
The school hall has been set up ready for the royal potato showdown.
The event is taken so seriously that it is presided over
by Trading Standards officer Martin Preisig
and his extremely accurate scales.
-It's a big day for the youngsters on the island?
-It's so exciting today!
-They're all getting ready for it. A big competition today.
Head teacher Chris Jones shows me the school's vegetable garden,
where each class has been nurturing its own crop.
These are the buckets. Each class have got their own buckets.
And I guess... Obviously, the idea is to teach the children
-where their food is coming from.
It's so important for the children to know
that food doesn't just come from the supermarket.
Everybody gets a bucket and then...
every bucket has just two seed potatoes.
And the children in assembly, they know how to plant them,
where to put them and strategically,
so they're not too near each other.
And then they're covered, watered
and the children look after them for 12 weeks.
And the children just don't know what's going to be in here.
-So they might be empty.
But we've had good success in the past.
The aim is to produce the most potatoes and the greatest weight
from the two seed potatoes given to each class.
There's some very eager children here
who are going to give us a hand carrying these buckets.
-Come on, children!
-Who's feeling strong today?
The highest number of potatoes ever recorded at St Lawrence's School
There you go.
And the heaviest weight is just short of 1,200 grams.
There we are.
You can show me the way, cos I don't know where your school hall is.
It's the moment of truth.
How are we doing? Look! We've got the potatoes and everything.
Will it be the bumper crop they've been hoping for?
Shall we have a look and see how you've done?
Are there going to be any potatoes in there?
-I hope so. Who's going to win?
We'll start off with Year 3.
Good luck, Year 3. Here we go.
Oh! How many potatoes do you think are in here, Year 3?
19? 20. OK.
Oh, that's a big one.
14, 15, 16...
It's looking good this year.
29! Come on! Break 30!
Well, what an incredible start.
Good luck to the next class.
The first class has weighed in
and it looks like this could be a record-breaking year.
The score is in.
And it's 34!
With the school record for
the greatest number of potatoes already broken...
they're off to a great start.
This is too good.
This should be part of the Olympics, this, don't you think?
But still to be weighed is the nursery class's crop.
It's a good batch. You won't believe it, guys, how many's in here.
You won't believe it.
Done. The nursery class has grown...
..an incredible 53 potatoes!
It's a fantastic result for the nursery children.
And the weights are breaking records too!
Look at that!
The winners by a long, long way, look at that, 53 potatoes,
to the nursery group. Come on.
-I can't believe it. How do you feel?
-You feel very good.
Huge congratulations. Yes!
Come up for a high five as well.
Yes! Well done to the nursery group.
What a great day for St Lawrence's School.
Up you come, Year 2. Well done. Huge congratulations.
Oh, unbelievable. Keep on going, there we are.
Well done. Can we shake hands? There we are. Very good.
Earlier, we heard how the National Living Wage
is putting pressure on fruit and vegetable growers,
with many fearing for their future.
So, what could be done to help? Here's Tom.
Before the introduction of the National Living Wage,
the UK's minimum hourly rate ranked as the seventh-highest in Europe.
Now it's up to fourth with only France, Luxemburg
and the Netherlands paying more.
So, will British consumers, you and me, pay higher prices to fund that?
We import more fruit and veg from Spain than any other country.
But Spanish growers pay just over £3 per hour compared to our £7.20.
That means you can get two Spanish workers for
the price of one in the UK.
For Britain's labour-intensive horticultural industry,
that's a real problem and something Ali Capper knows all about.
She runs a 200-acre apple and hop farm in Worcestershire
and is the chair of the NFU's Horticulture and Potatoes Board.
She and her fellow growers have some tough decisions to make.
So what, in essence, is your objection to the Living Wage?
There are a number.
The first is that we only had nine months' notice.
The second is the rate of inflation is set to be at 7% for
the next five years, where we would have been expecting 2.5%.
We've just not been given a chance to be competitive.
As I understand it,
you're not against the idea of the Living Wage in principle,
but you'd like to see certain tweaks?
Yes, the principle of the National Living Wage
is one which all of farming supports.
The issue is how we afford it.
And to help them afford it, the NFU say they need some changes.
We'd like to see a student agricultural worker scheme
that would allow us to employ students of agriculture
from around the world.
It would improve productivity.
And it would also bring in new ideas into the sector.
This would also mean younger workers and so reduce the wage bill.
But without any changes, production costs are set to soar.
If it's costing more to produce your fruit and veg,
shouldn't the retailers be paying you more for that product?
But this is about market competitiveness.
So the retailers have a choice.
Should this be about increasing the price to the consumer
or is it about the margin that comes back from the supermarket,
back down to farm gate?
So what choice will the retailers make?
Will the farmers or the consumers shoulder the expense?
Andrew Opie is from the British Retail Consortium
which represents the supermarkets.
Will you be able to pay the farmers a little bit more
because their costs are higher?
I think retailers are probably in the best position
to understand the pressure on farmers,
because, of course, we're trying to manage those extra labour costs
just as much as farmers are.
Are you going to pay them a little bit more for what they produce?
I think the problem was, I was going to say,
was you need to set this within a context of a market
where we've seen two years of price deflation,
where price is a really key aspect for consumers.
Now, retailers, like farmers,
will do everything they can to cut their own costs,
but trying to pass extra costs on to consumers in this market
is nigh on impossible.
If I'm a grower listening to this - I just want to get this straight -
is there any chance of me going to the supermarkets
and them entertaining a discussion about paying me more?
They will look at the costs,
but what the farmers themselves need to understand,
just that every retailer needs to understand,
is the pressure that consumers are putting on price deflation.
So, yes, retailers know they have to pay a pragmatic price to farmers
so that they can continue to supply them good quality British produce.
But it is within the context where costs need to be controlled.
But just what that pragmatic price should be
is something the growers and the supermarkets
are constantly competing over.
The cost of growing, producing and selling the food has gone up
because of the cost of labour going up.
Therefore, customers should pay a little bit more for their food.
To ignore costs
and pretend that consumers are simply going to pay more
is to ignore the strength of the market
and the direction of the market
that we've seen in the last five years.
And he could well be right.
The attitudes towards British food survey,
conducted earlier this year,
shows we're not as supportive of British produce as you might think.
While 77% say it's important to support British farmers,
two-thirds of us wouldn't pay more for home-grown produce.
So if farm gate prices don't go up,
growers will have to fund the higher wage bill themselves,
and this, they say, means cutting their costs.
The widely welcomed Living Wage
does mean our fruit and veg will cost more to produce,
but no-one we've spoken to for this programme
expects the price we pay in the shops to reflect that.
The result could be fewer jobs
and familiar crops moving overseas.
Not such a rosy future.
We'd love to hear your thoughts.
Would you pay more for British produce
or do you spend enough on food already?
Get in touch via the website or let us know on Twitter.
Glorious yet unforgiving.
Today, it's the setting for a battle.
Should we farm animals for food
or embrace a vegan lifestyle?
In the blue corner, heavyweight Gareth Wyn Jones,
a dedicated and passionate livestock farmer.
And in the red corner, super middleweight Tim Shieff,
champion free runner and committed vegan.
As a teenager, Tim was obsessed with physical activity.
He became a break-dancer and then a world champion free runner,
a cross between athlete, stuntman and acrobat.
That means challenging his body on a daily basis.
And he does it all on a diet which comes exclusively from plants.
I've been vegan for three years now.
I don't eat any products that have come from an animal.
I could never purposely kill an animal if it was just for food,
for me, when I realise that you don't need to.
When I became a vegan, I lost a bit of weight,
I'm more hydrated, more energy,
my body just feels cleaner, better skin.
Overall, there wasn't a thing
I didn't really feel more positive about when becoming vegan,
and in doing so, I feel a lot healthier for it.
Tim's a city boy and hasn't been on a farm since he was a child.
He admits he knows little about how meat is actually produced.
Today, that's all going to change.
He's meeting Gareth on his hill farm,
where his family's been rearing sheep for more than 350 years.
I've never met a vegan in the flesh.
I'm not expecting him to go from here eating lamb dinners.
But I'm expecting him to have an understanding of what I do,
what I'm about and why I do it.
So many people are removed from the source of their food.
I want to see some lambs.
I think I'll just be even more shocked
at the fact that we still kill them for food.
They're beautiful creatures.
Will the gloves come off
as Tim "the vegan" Shieff goes head-to-head
with Gareth "the farmer" Wyn Jones?
HE SPEAKS WELSH
-Yeah, good to meet you.
Or will they find some common ground? Let battle commence.
As the bell sounds, Tim's already rolling with the punches.
Come on. Get them muscles going, lad. Go on. Go on.
Don't stop now. Go on. You've got to get after it now.
A cow needs help delivering a calf,
and Tim's given the job of pulling it into the world.
That is one heck of a bull calf. Well done, lad.
-Well done. Seriously.
-Couldn't ask for a better job.
-Oh, what a moment.
A new male calf, which will be raised for beef,
brings today's argument into sharp focus.
-This animal will be with us now for about two years.
-And then we'll sell it.
-If this was a little girl...
-..we would have kept her.
-So if you're born a boy here...
-..lamb or beef,
your chances of survival are very, very low!
For me, to see such a beautiful thing happen
so that we can just eat, when we could eat something else,
it's hard for me to accept that.
So, round one turns out to be more gentle sparring
than a full-on fistfight.
-That was a good job, mate.
-Thanks for letting me do that with you.
Ding-ding, round two.
Gareth's is a livestock farm, but he grows all his own vegetables.
As a vegan, you must have grown tonnes of vegetables.
I've eaten a lot, I've grown none.
So Tim gets a lesson at growing his own.
You probably have less impact on the planet than me
in terms of where your produce comes from -
it's all locally grown.
I'm buying bananas from Ecuador.
The environmental thing comes secondary to me.
But when I see cows being born like that,
and that's just going to be a five-minute snack to someone down the line...
They're going to eat a burger and carry on with their day.
The next day, they've forgotten about what they had yesterday,
and that's the whole life of an animal.
I don't like seeing an animal get killed and I don't need to eat a dead animal,
so I'm going to make a choice that doesn't live that way.
Maybe we need to re-educate our children about farming,
food production, growing, seasonality,
-and bring things back...
-For me, this is food production,
and then the animals, for me, it's not...
In your circumstance, I'd never tell you to change what you're doing.
This is your livelihood and you provide for your family
and you've always done it for years.
As long as I don't understand it,
I'm going to try and make a choice just on the safer side of things.
So are the points level as they bob and weave into round three?
Sheep have been a prominent feature of this landscape for centuries,
but in a vegan world, there would be no need for them,
or any other livestock.
So, Tim, if we took all the livestock from Great Britain,
what do you think would happen?
I think for something's existence
just to be a purpose of feeding us when it's not a necessity
isn't important and not something I want to support.
But I think we can still live in harmony with animals.
Maybe we could have sheep and just not eat them, not kill them.
I mean, I know, maybe it's a naive perspective.
Yeah, no, that's your perspective, and I've got to respect that.
You cannot call this cruelty.
I think that I've done the best job that I can.
-You know, I...
-I can see that you do that.
I think from your perspective and the role that you play,
I couldn't see anyone doing a better role of what you're doing
and giving the animals a better life.
-Do you think if you were born my son...
..would you be standing here talking as a vegan?
No, I think I'd be carrying on this way of life. I think I would.
I really admire it. I respect it.
-Bring it in, man.
-That means a lot to me.
-Respect, mate. Real respect.
-Big love, man. Been a pleasure, man.
Battle over. Punches have been thrown.
Do you think they've matched each other pound for pound?
I helped birth a live animal,
and at the other end of that, to eat meat, you have to take life,
and I could never see myself taking life.
But I can just... I can see where he's coming from
and how valuable this way of life is to him and his family.
It's made me think that we need to re-educate a lot of people
because they have no idea of food production and farming,
and I think we need to reconnect with them.
Is there a clear winner?
Lessons have been learnt and respect given on both sides of the argument.
Now, vegetables, fruit, cereals and salad crops
all have one thing in common.
They need space to grow,
and there's only so much fertile land available.
Or is there?
If we think a bit more creatively,
could the answer literally be beneath our feet?
Adam's been finding out.
On this farm, we grow about 1,000 acres of arable crops.
We've got wheat, barley, and then this, oil-seed rape.
As you're driving around the countryside,
you'll notice fields of it coming into flower
with great blankets of yellow.
All of this crop will go into making rapeseed oil.
And lots of people wouldn't realise it,
but they're eating it in all sorts of different products.
It's used in catering and cooking,
in margarines, in oils, in dressings.
It's even used in fuel.
Really useful stuff.
Come on, Boo.
Since I left college and started farming all those years ago,
things have changed quite dramatically in farming,
particularly with regard to the increased amount of food we produce
from the same amount of land.
And that's partly thanks to our scientists
who have helped increase the yields of our crops,
but also down to the accuracy and technology
in modern farming techniques.
But even still today,
we're being asked to turn on a tap for food production
to feed a growing world population.
So how on earth are we going to do it?
Maybe one of the answers lies here in the heart of the city.
I've come to Clapham in London,
the last place you'd expect to find fresh local produce.
Check this out. You don't get much fresher than this.
And believe it or not, it was grown right beneath where I'm standing.
12 storeys down is an urban farm,
and to find out more, I'm going under the streets of London.
This place is just extraordinary.
It's actually a bit spooky.
It's this huge underground tunnel.
It's not what I was expecting at all.
And there doesn't seem to be a farm in sight.
To discover what on earth is going on down here,
I'm meeting with West Country man Steven Dring.
If I can find him.
-Here's someone now. Is that you, Steven?
-It is indeed, yes.
-Good to meet you.
-How are you?
What an extraordinary place. What is it?
This used to be a World War II air-raid shelter.
All the way throughout this tunnel,
there would have been bunk beds, medical centres,
sort of dining areas
to feed 8,000 Londoners hiding down here during the war.
So while it was being flattened upstairs by bombs,
-they were safe down here?
AIR-RAID SIREN WAILS
-And what's that noise?
That would be the Northern line about four storeys above us.
How far down are we, then?
So, about 120 feet. Sort of 30, 40 metres in places, yeah.
-It's a bit weird, isn't it?
-It's totally different to a normal farm.
-And you decided to farm down here?
-Why did you do that?
-A lot of reasons.
This is effectively our glasshouse, our polytunnel that's already here.
It's about reusing spaces that have become redundant
and then bringing the growing closer to the consumer.
-Shall we go and take a look?
-Absolutely, let's go.
-My word, Steven. This is just incredible.
So, what's going on in here, then?
So we're just using hydroponics and LEDs
and traditional agricultural equipment
just to produce leafy greens and salads and herbs.
These plants are being selected because they're quick-growing
and can be harvested within days.
You've got a whole range of plants here.
-Lots of different colours.
We've got some really dark burgundy in the red basil over here.
Then we've got some salad rocket, beautiful green salad rocket.
We're growing about 20 products.
We've got some coriander, pea shoots, parsley, celery.
-So, yeah, a full range of products.
With an ever increasing population and a limited amount of land,
could this be a potential solution for growing crops?
Horticultural director Chris Nelson
has the challenge of making this system work.
Hi, Chris. Steven tells me you're the expert
when it comes to growing this kind of stuff.
Yes, I've had a lifetime of growing crops,
but not necessarily in a tunnel 33 metres underground.
And you're growing 20 different varieties.
-That must be a challenge.
There's a certain amount of logistics
that you have to work out -
when to sow, when to put in to dark and when to bring in the lights.
They range, so what we're looking at here
only takes three days under the lights,
but something like that one over there is 15 days under lights.
The clever thing about using LED lighting
is that the colour range of lights can be altered
not only to optimise plant growth, but flavour, too.
I looked at different crops being grown in a research situation,
and they were amazing, but they had no flavour.
They were just, like, green.
And then I picked another one under a different combination
and it blew my head off.
It was so strong.
And I know that this arrangement
-is just about perfect for what we're doing here.
But if I want to change my crops and grow root veg,
I shall need a different lighting arrangement.
-And hydroponics, so grown in water.
It all comes from downstairs,
so underneath here is a range of tanks, pumps and feed tanks
that comes in through there and it floods up
and it comes under there.
-And you can see here - just an amazing root system.
-This one over here, if we just move down a little bit...
Got a bit of a punch to it.
-It's quite intense, isn't it?
-It's a strong flavour.
-It's just what the chefs are looking for.
This intense flavour, it's architectural,
-it looks beautiful on the plate.
Chris shows me where it all starts.
The seeds are sown onto a kind of special carpet.
So here we are in the dark propagation area.
Just turn on some lights for you.
They're then transferred to a darkroom
to replicate conditions under the soil.
This all looks great, Chris, but as a grower,
wouldn't you prefer to be in a greenhouse up on top?
No, not necessarily.
I mean, problems in greenhouses and glasshouses
is pests and disease.
Down here, I don't have any of that.
Insects don't know this is down here
-and I don't have mildew or botrytis problems.
-So, from here, it goes into the LED lights to get it sprouting?
And from there, it goes to harvesting,
which you haven't seen yet.
-Shall we go and take a look at that?
-Go and have a look.
Here we are - we're coming up to where we do the harvesting,
which is a really simple process.
We use a very, very sharp knife,
which Daniel here is cutting through the product,
and just as simple as that.
-How old is this plant, then?
-It's about ten days old.
You can see here it's quite seed thick.
-And what is it?
-That's garlic chives.
-You can smell it.
-Mm! Really strong flavour.
-It is, isn't it?
-Quite a kick to it.
So all that's left is to pack them into containers
and take them up to the world above.
It's bright sunshine out here!
Yeah, a little bit brighter than downstairs, yeah.
Thank you. Cheers.
Do you think this is the future?
I think reusing spaces and utilising spaces like we've got downstairs,
and expanding that area that we've got to grow,
for a growing population,
I think this is always going to be complementary to farming.
-It's been fascinating to meet you. Good luck.
-All the best.
The unmistakable landscapes and vistas
of our great British countryside.
Farming gives them character,
with rows of crops creating angles and splashes of colour.
These striking scenes have provided inspiration
for painters and photographers for centuries.
But one landscape photographer, Carl Warner,
is bringing the produce from the fields
literally right into his work.
And I've been told to meet him
out here in the middle of the beautiful Kent countryside,
and to bring along two things with me -
a bag of vegetables and a picture that Matt has sent me on my phone.
CAMERA SHUTTER CLICKS
-How's it going?
-It's going well.
-I've got your shopping here.
-A bag of veggies, you said.
-What's that for?
Well, what I do is, I'm a photographer and an artist,
and I actually make landscapes out of food.
-Here we go. Here's some of my work.
-Oh, my goodness!
This is very similar to what we're standing on, but it's a bridge made out of cucumber.
It's really detailed. That's not what I expected.
I expected it to be kind of cartoonish,
but it looks very much like landscape painting.
Well, it's real food,
but also, I'm kind of using the light and the composition
in the same way that painters or landscape painters used to do.
So it's a very classical look to the image.
But it's nice that it fools the viewer into thinking
that it's perhaps a real place, and then they double-take
to realise, actually, it's all made out of food.
-Is this a bit of kale down here?
And then the cucumber trees and all the herbs for the leaves.
That really is so impressive.
-Now, I've got this photo that I've been asked to bring.
-Taken by Matt Baker.
What do you think the chances are of using some of these vegetables
and having a go at recreating that?
-Yes, I think we can do something with that.
-That sounds like fun.
There's no shortage of inspiration here.
-No, it's absolutely gorgeous, isn't it?
-This is the studio in which I work.
-It's a lovely space.
Oh, this mushroom picture's amazing.
This is one of the very first ones I ever did.
I was out one day in a food market
and I saw these amazing portobello mushrooms,
and I picked one up and thought, from a low angle,
this mushroom could look huge
like it was in some sort of alien landscape.
-Yeah, it's very sci-fi.
I'll show you one here which is a broccoli forest.
All kids know that broccolis look like trees.
-It's the only way to get them to eat it.
So, as you can see from this one,
we've got cauliflower clouds, we've got bread mountains,
and then we've got a little pathway made of turmeric,
and then the little ladder's made out of vanilla pods.
-So everything's edible.
What do you use these images for?
I've been working in advertising,
so it's used for sort of selling food products and things like that.
But as the work's grown, I do a lot of work for sort of food education,
so help educate children about eating more healthy food.
Carl's work is extraordinary.
I can't wait to see how we're going to recreate Matt's lighthouse scene
with the random bag of vegetables that I've brought along.
-So how do you begin?
Let's see what we've got in the bag first.
Jersey Royals. This time of year, fantastic.
I think for this lighthouse scene, they'll be great for the rocks.
-Seasonal and geographically correct.
This has got to be your lighthouse, hasn't it - parsnip?
And asparagus. It's a great time of year for asparagus.
Maybe we can make some sort of fishing boat with the courgette.
-There's no shortage of tatties.
-Which is why that bag was so heavy.
-Let's put them all out on the table.
-Let's get the rocks going.
And now we're going to take more potatoes and just build up...
-Build up the rocky outcrops.
-..the rocky outcrops.
# Ohh! #
The next bit that will go in
needs to be the glass area where the lantern goes.
-So I think we'll do that out of the leek.
Want to put that on top?
How about that?
So, here we've got our asparagus fishing boat.
That is absolutely brilliant.
-What an imagination you've got.
-So, courgette is the hull.
We've put some mangetout on the cabin.
And I've got some asparagus for the mast.
-Some fine green beans in here.
-Some cheeky olives.
There must be times when you think this isn't work, this is just fun.
It's fun but, shh, don't tell anybody!
That is fantastic.
It makes you feel incredibly tiny and immersed in this world.
Well, the weather is glorious in this vegetable world,
but what will it be like
for the rest of us in the real world this week?
Time to find out with the Countryfile forecast.
We've been looking at all things veggie.
Whether you're eating them... growing them...
Look at the texture on that. You can't get better.
-..or creating art from them...
-That is fantastic.
..vegetables are a huge part of our lives.
Back on Jersey, the early potato harvest is still in full swing.
Away from the steep slopes,
Christine and Didier Hellio use a mechanical harvester
to gather their precious crop.
So, what's the plan here, then, Christine?
-The potatoes are coming up on the harvester.
If you see anything that's green or a stone,
you've got to take it out and put it down the chute.
Timing is of the essence
as the Jersey Royal season is only 12 weeks long,
and they must get everything to market
before it's swamped by other growers from the mainland.
These potatoes have been out of the ground for literally minutes.
Already, they've been lifted off here, put onto that trailer,
and they'll be off to the processing plant.
-So, Christine, I will say goodbye. Thank you so much.
-Really nice to see you.
-Thank you for coming.
-Thanks for your help.
I'm off to follow your potatoes and see the next stage. See you later.
This is Jersey's state-of-the-art potato processing plant.
So you've got Jersey Royals from all over the island,
they come in here, they've been graded for size,
and then, well, then they can crack on.
Tim Ward is in charge of the site.
It's absolutely unbelievable...
-The potatoes have been gently placed onto the line.
And now it's being introduced into the washing process
before we then take it through the hydro-cooler.
In the middle of May, we can have potatoes coming in from the field
22, 23 degrees.
The clock is ticking from the moment they come out of the ground.
-So what we're trying to do is cool it down,
keep them fresh, keep them bright for longer, really.
All the water used in this process is actually harvested off the roof.
-You can actually use the water seven times
before it loses its aeration.
And then after we've finished with it,
we'll put it back down main streams.
That is an incredible process in itself
-when you think it's just come from the roof.
-Yeah, exactly that.
-How many potatoes go through here?
-On a big week,
-we can have 1,500 tonnes of potatoes going through this plant.
On the peak days, which tend to be
towards the third, fourth week in May,
we can be doing as much as 1,000 tonnes a day
going out of the island.
Once they're washed and cooled, they're packed and labelled
so that every potato can be traced back to the grower.
Every pack that's produced has a time that it's produced at,
plus the line that it's been produced on.
The potatoes have to reach the consumer as fresh as possible.
That means getting them to the mainland fast.
And there you have it - this lorry is now off to the ferry.
And the fact is,
some of you will be eating those potatoes this time tomorrow.
Do you know, it has been wonderful and quite unbelievable
to witness the process of those potatoes
going from the Jersey soil to your dinner plate.
Well, that's all we've got time for from Jersey.
Next week, we'll be in Snowdonia,
where John will be on the hunt for a magnificent bird of prey,
and surf's up for Anita.
But before we go, we have to take one more look
at Ellie's photo masterpiece inspired by this place.
From carrots to cauliflower, peas to parsnips we are a nation of vegetable lovers. To mark National Vegetarian Week, Countryfile is taking a look at all things veggie. Matt Baker is at the heart of the Jersey Royal Potato Harvest. Ellie Harrison gets artistic with her vegetables to create a landscape photograph with a difference. Naomi Wilkinson tastes the delights of Indian vegetarian cooking. Champion free runner and vegan Tim Shieff goes head to head with sheep farmer Gareth Wyn Jones to debate the pros and cons of veganism. Adam Henson looks into the future of farming when he visits an urban farm built in tunnels 33 metres below the streets of London. And Tom Heap investigates the threats facing our vegetable producers and finds out why many feel that the days of British veg are numbered.