Guy Warner: The great organic debate

Simon Weaver's tasty selection of cheeses

Simon Weaver's tasty selection of cheeses - Credit: Archant

The organic debate continues to rage on, but is organic certification the be-all and end-all of quality produce?

They say there are three things you should never talk about at dinner parties: money, politics and religion. Well, I’d add a fourth – organic food. Seriously, the subject of whether you eat organic or not can be a real hot potato, as divisive as whether you voted leave or remain, seemingly never wise to disclose amongst company.

That’s because there’s a lot of emotion surrounding the great organic debate. Woe betide me to wade into something so contentious – I’ve seen this particular topic of conversation lead to all manner of arguments. Whichever camp you’re in, nothing I nor fellow diners can say will persuade you to change your view – I know, because I’ve tried!

So the organic debate rages on, and this autumn there’s no escape as the Soil Association implores us to ‘Organic Your September’. Yes, it’s the annual drive to convert those floating voters into the organic camp.

But is organic really best? That’s a subject open to many hours of discussion. I work with some amazing local Cotswold suppliers who have sweated blood and tears to produce fabulous quality produce and who don’t have organic certification, yet stand by the quality of what they produce. I tell you, in a line-up, you’d have difficulty working out what’s organic and what’s not if it all came down to a taste test. On the other hand, I know some local, organically certified producers responsible for stunning food who will tell you very clearly why organic is simply different class!

I certainly don’t just eat organic, but as a family, we prefer to buy organic meat and produce when we can, most probably because we listened to all the scaremongers a few years back. Apples glistening with pesticides, carrots grown in insecticides, chickens fed on steroids, cows downing antibiotics… whether it was a load of old baloney or not, it certainly struck a nerve and shaped our diet forever.

It’s certainly not the easy option – my wife has come home with organic chickens that look like budgies, not enough to feed my son, never mind a family of six. I’ve had apples that look as appealing as cricket balls; hard and gnarly and devoid of flavour. On the other hand, I’ve had amazing organic produce ¬– Simon Weaver’s organic brie can’t be beaten for its soft and buttery flavour, Jess’s Ladies Organic Farm Milk is just how milk should taste, and Spot Loggins ice cream is, well, just the best!

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As I’ve said so many times, we’re fortunate to live in an area jam-packed with outstanding local producers. The quality of produce we can buy in the Cotswolds is unsurpassed; we know the provenance of so much of our local produce – we even know the names of the cows that our milk comes from – but the fact that not all of these farmers and producers have been through the rigmarole of getting organic certification – does it really matter? Well, that’s a very, very personal opinion!

There’s no doubt organic food is here to stay, it’s just maybe not the buzz word it used to be – the gluten-free party seem to have claimed that victory. We’ll still carry on doing what we do because it suits us and feels right. However, I may just sneak that new gluten-free cereal into my shopping basket next time I’m at the store!

Organic goodness

Jess’s Ladies Organic: local favourite, Jess Vaughan, has been providing us with her organic dairy products for years. Her Farm Milk has been described as ‘milk as it used to taste’, while the Extra Thick Cream and Luxurious Natural Yogurt are equally divine.

Simon Weaver Cotswold Organic Dairy: the award-winning cheeses from this fantastic organic dairy include the delicious Organic Cotswolds Brie, with its soft and buttery texture and flavour of Cotswolds meadows.

Shipton Mill: set in a picturesque Tetbury valley, Shipton Mill produces a range of speciality organic flours including traditional wheat flour, spelt, buckwheat, rice, chestnut, rye as well as a range of gluten-free plain and self-raising flours.