THE STORY OF ACONBURY SPROUTS
HOW AND WHEN DID ACONBURY SPROUTS START?
It was back in 1986 when a friend of Jim Hardy who was working as a cook at an alternative cancer treatment centre started growing sprouts to include in patients’ meals. At first they were sprouting in buckets in a static caravan and just supplying local health food stores. Jim soon bought the business from his friend and never looked back until 2013 when Alina took over.
HOW DID IT GROW OVER THE YEARS?
The business grew slowly to begin with, selling the sprouts locally then distribution to shops and wholesalers increased and with the development of the internet combined with a renewed interest and change in people’s eating habits to more healthy products we were able to increase our range to include wheatgrass and barleygrass and expand to meet the higher demand. In 2006 we won the award for the best new fruit and vegetable product at Food and Drink Expo with our Sango Radish sprouts and in 2009 we won again at the International Food Exhibition with our Golden Snow Pea Shoots.
IS BRITAIN A PARTICULARLY GOOD LOCATION FOR SPROUT GROWING?
Actually you could produce sprouts anywhere, as they can be grown indoors on fibre or in water. Aconbury Sprouts is based in rural Herefordshire surrounded by farmland but we can grow crops all year round whatever the weather thanks to our specially designed polytunnel. The market doesn’t change a huge amount seasonally anyway…although people don’t eat quite as many healthy salads at Christmas!
HAS ACONBURY SPROUTS ALWAYS BEEN ORGANIC?
No, not to begin with. When Jim took over the business organic seeds weren’t really available or at least not a decent quality or price. Once we did source the seeds we started growing organically and got Soil Association accreditation around 1992. The growing process was pretty much organic anyway so the big issue was getting good quality organically certified seeds which we also sell on the website.
SO ARE SPROUTS JUST A HEALTH FOOD, GOURMET ITEM….OR A BIT OF BOTH?
Definitely both - they’re very useful staples. Sprouting a seed makes it digestible without cooking and is also the stage of the plant’s life when it has maximum nutritional value. So health wise they’re best eaten raw but you can also stir-fry them or use as a garnish. Some of our products, the purple sango radish for example, are particularly decorative. They’re healthy yes but that doesn’t mean they’re boring or tasteless, we’ve found some really tasty seed which we sprout. As a market Britain is well behind the USA and Europe but gradually more people are enjoying sprouts, they’re so versatile, just rinse and eat, no chopping, everyone should give them a try.