Alex James: I want to grow my own pizza

Rural Notebook
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The Independent Online

Seven years we'll have been here, next month, and the farm is actually starting to look quite tidy. Drainage, fences, hedges patched up, re-instated. Docks and thistles removed. Let's see, what else? Lakes dredged, ducks re-housed. Chickens strutting through newly planted orchards. It's a never-ending process – there's still a good half an acre of outbuildings that need new roofs and the old village cricket pitch still to find but I reckon I'm actually about half-way from turning the place from the charmingly shabby chemical-soaked ruin it was when we arrived into the world's biggest, slickest pizza generator.

I'm talking about 200 hundred acres of biodynamic pizza farm. That's where I'm going with it.

Pizza is now the most widely consumed food on the planet and I'm going to make the best one anyone has ever seen or tasted and I'm going to make it from the ground up, from first principles.

Until now, 90 per cent of the world's bread, including nearly all the bread we buy in the UK, has been made from wheat grown in Canada. That's to say if you're eating a sandwich it's 90 per cent likely to be from Canada, ultimately. It's only very recently, with huge but almost unnoticed improvements in agricultural practice – combine harvesters developed on the back of weapons technology, a much more sophisticated approach to soil management, resilient cultivars and so on – that it has become possible to grow wheat fluffy enough on these pretty shores to compete with the stuff that pops out of those vast prairies. I've got 40 acres of a variety called brigadier growing on the heath and next to Crudgie's cheese factory and I'm turning one of the old sheds, a south-facing cattle barn as big and ugly as a Waitrose, into a tomato laboratory. I'm off to Jersey to look at heritage varieties and then I'm going to go tomato crazy this summer.

Cheese and tomato. That's what I'm saying.

Eggs on a roll, at last

I was worried the chickens had stopped laying. They lay eggs when they are happy, to celebrate. You know everything is basically okay if there are eggs. But then nothing, nothing for weeks and weeks. I was looking for a small bouncy ball yesterday and stumbled on a huge stash of eggs in a DIY chicken's nest hidden behind an old barn door. Some were green and some were speckly. What a joy. Easter's come early this year.

Home shopping

Daylesford Farm shop re-opened this weekend after a barbecue that got out of control burnt down the old one a year ago. Twenty years ago food in rural Britain was so bad that ageing rock gentlemen like me used to have to run away to France. Hallelujah, I say. Praise the lord and pass the pickled walnuts.

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