Best of Bri­tish

How a memo­rial gar­den grew into a boom­ing busi­ness

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents -

Home-grown beet­root ketchup

‘I GREW UP COOK­ING from scratch with Mum and we weren’t al­lowed to waste any­thing,’ says Frankie Fox. Her mother loved to cook, and her fa­ther was a plant and mushroom ex­pert who en­joyed for­ag­ing near their home in ru­ral Berk­shire. ‘We used to go on long walks look­ing for mush­rooms, and we knew about se­cret places where the chanterelles grew.’

Fox moved to Lon­don for uni­ver­sity and later worked in fi­nance, but in 2012 she re­turned to the coun­try­side with her hus­band and their two chil­dren, Thomas, now nine, and Jemima, eight, mov­ing into a house with a large gar­den in a vil­lage near Bishop’s Stort­ford. When her fa­ther died soon after­wards, she re­planted the gar­den in homage to him and started grow­ing beet­root, run­ner beans and fruit canes. She also be­gan to teach Thomas and Jemima about the process of grow­ing veg­eta­bles from seeds. ‘I wanted them to not be afraid of food,’ says Fox. ‘If you know what’s in it then you eat bet­ter, you don’t waste it and you’re less fussy.’

When their first har­vest came in, in 2013, they had a glut of beet­root and Fox be­gan ex­plor­ing how to pre­serve it. To­mato ketchup was a fam­ily favourite, so she ex­per­i­mented with mak­ing beet­root ketchup, set­tling on a recipe that tasted both sweet and earthy. ‘My hands were red from peel­ing beet­root,’ she re­calls. ‘And the kitchen looked like some­thing out of the film Psy­cho.’

She named her ketchup brand The For­ag­ing Fox, a fur­ther trib­ute to her late fa­ther, and be­gan ex­chang­ing it with friends and fam­ily, who gave her ap­ples, quinces and other pro­duce from their gar­dens in re­turn. It be­came so pop­u­lar that she started sell­ing it at a food fair in west Lon­don, and in 2015 she be­gan mak­ing it in bulk, en­list­ing a man­u­fac­turer and invit­ing a friend and for­mer col­league to be her busi­ness part­ner.

They now pro­duce 100,000 bot­tles a year, which are sold in Waitrose and Sains­bury’s as well as small delis and food halls, and Fox has de­vel­oped smoked and spicy flavours, in ad­di­tion to the orig­i­nal sweet-earthy va­ri­ety.

The beet­root is now grown on a larger farm. Once har­vested, it is cooked with ap­ples, red-grape vine­gar, golden sugar, olive oil, salt and a com­bi­na­tion of spices that Fox keeps se­cret.

She ex­plains that the acid of the vine­gar and the salt act as nat­u­ral preser­va­tives. ‘We’re re­ly­ing on nat­u­ral pro­cesses, how we’ve tra­di­tion­ally pre­served things,’ she says. ‘I don’t think good food needs ex­tra in­gre­di­ents.

‘It’s the same process as when I pre­pared it at home, but in larger pans,’ she adds. ‘It started from a place of grief and now I’ve cre­ated a legacy.’ for­ag­ing­fox.com

Above Frankie Fox in her kitchen, in her home near Bishop’s Stort­ford. Right Pre­par­ing beet­roots for ketchup. In­ter­view by So­phie Fos­ter. Pho­to­graphs by Alice Zoo

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