The success of thinking big and growing small...

Starting from a small greenhouse in a back garden, Nurtured in Norfolk is now helping talented chefs around the country turn plates of food into true works of art, with a range of micro-herbs, baby vegetable and edible flowers

Eating out is a pleasure we all enjoy for many reasons; the occasion, the company, the venue, even simply for the sheer joy of eating out. But the food always takes pride of place; mostly how it tastes, but also how it looks. The way food is presented adds a special dimension to a meal, a dimension that’s growing in importance – and Dereham-based company Nurtured in Norfolk are true masters of how to make food look visually stunning, exceptionally tasty, and completely nutritious.

From its origins in a humble 6’ x 10’ greenhouse in a back garden, Nurtured in Norfolk now supplies a range of wholesalers and Michelin star restaurants with a top-quality selection of cut micro-cress, pea shoots, micro-herbs, edible flowers and leaves, mint tips in various flavours, and baby, micro and sea vegetables.

It began with Allan Miller and Sue Drane, who both worked as full-time chefs for 20 years before becoming growers of micro cress – the transition from one profession to another being brought about by the need for a more consistently high quality product. They decided to grow cress themselves in their garden greenhouse, and began supplying the restaurant they worked in.

“Our experience as chefs was hugely important in the development of Nurtured in Norfolk,” says Allan. “Having worked in professional kitchens for many years, we understood what chefs wanted – in terms of consistency, appearance, quality and flavour.”

Co-founders of the company Allan Miller, Sue Drane and Alex Drane saw a niche for new and interesting garnishes in the kitchen, and wanted to help chefs use them to add depth and flavour to the palate – rather than being simply a decoration.

Nurtured in Norfolk has a vast and vibrant product range, and the quality and flavours are second to none. They’re always my ‘go-to’ supplier for herbs, micro ranges and flowers. Even better, the staff are always happy to help and get things to me at short notice without a complaint! The care the company takes in every step of the process is clearly visible in the fabulous products they consistently deliver…
Thomas Leatherbarrow, Executive Chef and Founder Pastry Development Ltd

The company started on a refreshingly ethical footing. All their micro products would be grown on a natural soil base, benefiting from nutrients present throughout the growing stages (therefore extending the shelf life) and biological controls would be used throughout the process to keep the crops clean and pest free.

The result – which received widespread acclaim from chefs both within and outside Norfolk – was a crop of herbs such as coriander, lemon balm, baby mint, ruby frills mustard, fennel and garlic chives. What they lacked in size was more than compensated for by the incredibly deep flavour. To date, the company’s most popular varieties are red vein sorrel and basil, and its range of micro cress has now extended to over 70 different types.

Rapidly (and literally) outgrowing the original greenhouse, Nurtured in Norfolk now operates from a four-acre nursery and grows over 280 different edibles – from familiar tastes such as broccoli, chervil and crimson radish to more exotic and unusual plants such as Peruvian marigold, purple shiso and green mizuna.

For those new to the world of these miniature marvels, microgreens are the first sprouts of seeds, although they’re not all tiny – their length can reach as much as 10cm. More importantly, a recent study of 25 different types of microgreens found they can be a good source of vitamin K1, vitamin C and various types of carotenoids and vitamin E9 – which are also powerful antioxidants.

“Our broccoli micro-cress has up to 90% health antioxidants,” says Allan. “To put that into perspective, it equals the nutritional value of 50 broccoli heads!”

Chefs aren’t only using Nurtured in Norfolk’s microgreens as a garnishes, but are now infusing the flavour of the leaves and flowers into everything from oils and gels to sorbets, and ice-creams.

Nurtured in Norfolk isn’t just about beautiful decorations to impress diners with visual flair – it’s about flavour, nutrition, and sustainable methods of production. And the story’s not finished yet. Work is currently taking place to increase the capacity and redesign the home of Nurtured in Norfolk, which has involved dismantling the old greenhouse and installing a new fridge unit – its huge size in stark contrast to the tiny leaves of wonder the nursery is built on.

Visit Nurtured in Norfolk's website for more information

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