A Taste of the Orient
A TASTE of the Orient is flourishing in the Fen soil, reaping rich rewards for a grower who definitely knows his Chinese greens. The name Cherry Farm may suggest something very English but the greenhouses which were once full of lettuces and bedding plant
A TASTE of the Orient is flourishing in the Fen soil, reaping rich rewards for a grower who definitely knows his Chinese greens.
The name Cherry Farm may suggest something very English but the greenhouses which were once full of lettuces and bedding plants now produce a more exotic crop.
Hong Kong native David Lam is the proprietor of Britain's biggest pak choi farm.
The farm in Walton Road, Wisbech, supplies vast quantities of the crisp and juicy cabbage-like vegetable to Chinese supermarkets and restaurants. But the stir-fry favourite is rapidly gaining popularity with British consumers who quite literally get a taste for it while on holiday.
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Mr Lam said: "The Far East is a very popular holiday destination for people from this country. The English market is growing all the time.
"Tastes are becoming more cosmopolitan; people are no longer eating meat and two veg at every meal. The traditional English salad used to be lettuce, cucumber and tomato, now people are eating things like rocket which you could never imagine the UK market taking on.
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British supermarkets such as Waitrose, Sainsburys and Tesco are snapping up the high quality pak choi which grows so well in the Fen soil.
Mr Lam said: "The pH of the soil here is quite high which is great for growing Chinese vegetables. East Anglia is also an ideal place for the business".
Arriving in this country in the 1970s, Mr Lam completed his school education and then went on to do business studies.
He became involved with his first nursery in Bedfordshire in 1987 but five years ago bought the Wisbech premises.
Initially all the vegetables went to Chinese consumers but the story is very different now - half the turnover is for the British market.
Pak choi is the perfect 21stCentury cooking ingredient, believes Mr Lam. It can be used in variety of dishes, all of which are very speedy to make and it is nutritious.
With 'Carbon footprint' being the buzz words of the moment, the pak choi grown in Wisbech also helps to allay concerns of food being flown in from abroad.
Marks & Spencer have to know the carbon footprint of each plant and the system at cherry Farm means produce can be traced from seed to final product.
Mr Lam says there is no substitute for food produced as near as possible to the table. He said: It is true. Something that doesn't travel tastes so much better."
From sowing the seed to harvesting, every care is taken to make sure only the finest quality produce reaches the consumer.
With around 15 acres under cover currently being used for the crop, Mr Lam also has plans to expand on the additional 15 acres to meet the demands of the multi-million pound market.
His workers start work at 6am and carry on until around 2.30pm when the greenhouses are too hot to work in. Mr Lam can successfully grow nine crops a year but he is experimenting on getting a tenth. From harvesting the pak choi it takes just 24 hours to prepare the soil and replant the next crop.
Although Mr Lam's main commercial crop is pak choi, he is keen to experiment with new edible plants and has spent years collecting seed to find some different oriental vegetables which can be grown and marketed successfully. A favourite is the edible chrysanthemum.
While the market for Chinese food in this country looks set to grow, Mr Lam says his diet at home is half Chinese, half English.
He admits to enjoying a traditional roast dinner. "I like roast beef but we haven't quite mastered the Yorkshire pudding," he jokes.