Buttervilla Farm nestles in a beautiful valley a mile from St Germans situated on the historic Port Eliot estate. For the last thirty years Rob and his family, have been growing heritage tomatoes, fruit, herbs and vegetables on a small scale. They are cropped young and tender, harvested and delivered within hours for that special freshness that sets them apart from other suppliers.
‘We grow all our tomatoes from seed,” explains Rob. “The majority of the seeds we save ourselves from the best plants of the current season. We also buy in around 10-20 new varieties of seed each year, mostly from the US to test grow, of these 1 or 2 will be selected to grow in larger quantities. So we are building a seed bank of tried and tested tasty tomato seeds that grow well under our local conditions and work with our specialised growing methods.”
On Monday May 6th a draconian new law was put before the European Commission, which creates new powers to classify and regulate all plants in Europe. Under the new law, it will immediately be illegal to grow, reproduce or trade any vegetable seed or tree that has not been tested and approved by a new “EU Plant Variety Agency”, who will make a list of approved plants. Moreover, an annual fee must also be paid to the Agency to keep them on the list, and if not paid, they cannot be produced.
This is a massive problem for Cornish artisan growers like Buttervilla as the law was drafted for the needs of the globalised farm-seed industry, who supply seed by the ton to industrial farmers. Due to large economies of scale the law will introduce, it means many smaller growers will be put out of business as they cannot afford the annual fee of registering seeds.
Buttervilla are calling for registration and testing to be voluntary for all non-GMO, non-patented, non-hybrid seed. That would fix all the problems with the law, while still allowing the giant agri-companies to protect their business. “Only in this way will we have a broad supply of quality seed for the needs of home gardeners and small growers” says Rob.”If this law goes ahead then many of our heritage seeds and plants will be lost along with the diverse flavour of different tomato varieties.”
This challenge for Buttervilla also presents a challenge for their customers like Watergate Bay Hotel, as we are committed to sourcing the best quality ingredients for our guests. The hotel uses Buttervilla tomatoes throughout our menus in The Beach Hut, The Living Space and Zacry's.
Hertitage tomato recipe
Our favourite Buttervilla tomato dish comes from The Living Space; Cornish crab, heritage tomatoes and basil aioli showcases the best of the summer seasons produce. Here’s our recipe so that you can make it at home – Cornish crab and Heritage tomato recipe
Rob has just received news that Buttervilla has won the second prize “Passion Turned Profession” of € 2000 by Italian organisation La Secondaluna for Life Long Passions in Europe. What an honour to be recognised by Italians who grow some of the finest tasting produce in Europe.
La Secondaluna appreciated Buttervilla’s skilled farming production, passion for seeds and traditional cultivation techniques is admired by some of the best restaurants in England. Using ancient cultivation techniques and biodiversity to reinvent the flavour of food a model of sustainable agriculture.”
Rob’s top tomato tips:
Don’t store them in the fridge – this is because it takes away from the flavour of the tomatoes.
Don’t over feed them – tomatoes taste better when they are left to their own devices, much like grapes, so don’t fuss with them too much.
Don’t throw away over or under ripe tomatoes – they make a great chutney or sauce that you can store and they are happy to be frozen.
#ChooseCornish is a campaign created by Cornwall Food and Drink specifically designed to protect our Cornish artisan suppliers like Buttervilla, by spreading the word about ‘buying local’. The hotel and Buttervilla actively support the #ChooseCornish campaign and appreciate the importance of sourcing locally for taste, the local economy and protecting our history.