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Seasonal, high-quality, flavour-rich produce is at the heart of Marks and Spencer’s ethos and last year, I had the pleasure of visiting M&S Select Producer, Withers farm.
This year, I returned to the Ledbury-based farm to dig in to the journey of the freshest berries from the fields to your local M&S store.
A Return to Withers Farm
Withers Farm has been supplying Marks and Spencer for the last five years. The highest-quality Red Diamond strawberries, blueberries and kiwi berries are lovingly grown, picked and packed by the Leeds family and their team before being delivered to your local M&S store for you to enjoy with your family.
Creating Food with Love for M&S
Owner George Leeds took time from his busy day to lead a tour of the farm to highlight the passion, expertise and hard-work that goes into producing every punnet of berries.
Kiwi berries are a revelation in my home. I buy them often for with granola and yoghurt in the mornings. They’re jam-packed with antioxidants, vitamin C and bursting with juicy kiwi flavour. Did I mention they are so easy to prepare? No need to peel or even chop if you don’t want to, I simply sprinkle a handful onto my breakfast or pack a small Tupperware for a healthy snack.
Withers farm grows a few different varieties of kiwi berry to ensure a long season of berry production. The fields of kiwi berries are formed of rows of vine-like trees that are loaded with berries. The plants have their own bee hives to help them along too and when ready, the picking team hand select the berries so that they ripen as they come into store to ensure a good shelf life. I love that attention and care to ensure we get the benefit!
Red Diamond Strawberries
Red Diamond strawberries are a very special variety that are exclusive to Marks and Spencer. The berries at Withers farm are given extra attention from planting to picking. Grown using the tabletop system, the berries are naturally protected from pests and the environment, nourished and watered for longer before picking. This ensures a ruby-red colour and super-sweet juicy flavour.
I had the opportunity to pick (and eat) my own punnet of berries, learning how the picking team look for larger, deeply coloured berries. I even mastered my picking technique!
What really stayed with me after my visit was just how passionate the Leeds family are about growing the finest berries. Their teams have been with them for many years and the expertise and hard-work that goes into day-to-day life on the farm is fuelled by passion for the very best produce. I can see why the relationship between Withers Farm and M&S works so well.
Strawberry Shortbread Sundaes
Marks and Spencer’s collaboration with Chef, Chris Baber is all about helping us to enjoy fresh produce at its best. The recipe selections are all designed to be, easy-to-make and delicious-to-eat – all whilst celebrating the joy of seasonal produce.
I’ve made a few of the recipes over the last few months and had got the Strawberry Shortbread Sundaes in mind as I was picking my punnet of Red Diamond strawberries. It’s such an easy recipe that has real wow factor. Here’s how I made them:
M&S Strawberry Shortbread Sundae Recipe
2 scoops M&S Cornish vanilla ice-cream
3 tbsp M&S raspberry coulis
¼ punnet M&S Red Diamond strawberries, sliced
2 shortbread biscuits (30g)
3 tbsp double cream, lightly whipped to soft peaks
First, put a scoop of ice cream in the bottom of a sundae glass.
Next, layer coulis, strawberries and some crumbled shortbread.
Repeat this process again, then top with the whipped cream.
Finish with more strawberries, a drizzle of coulis and a crumbling of shortbread.
The sundaes went down a storm in my house. Such a wonderfully summery treat that really highlights the juicy sweet berries against the cool, creamy textures and crumbling shortbread. We’ll definitely be enjoying them again.
Why don’t you head into store and pick up a punnet of Red Diamond strawberries for just £2 and give the recipe a go too. I know you’ll love it!