Meet Our Suppliers - Eastgate Larder
WHO ARE YOU? WHAT’S YOUR STORY, HOW & WHY DID YOU GET INTO THE BUSINESS?
I’m Jane Steward, founder and owner of Eastgate Larder. Based at my home in Eastgate Norfolk, I’m reviving the medlar, our ancient and forgotten fruit. I’ve planted an orchard of 120 medlars here, now recognised by Plant Heritage (the world’s largest plant conservation charity) as a National Collection. Until now, I’ve been blending Eastgate fruit with other Norfolk grown medlars to hand make medlar jelly, medlar fruit cheese and a Limited Edition spicy medlar chutney. From this year’s harvest (November 2021) I will exclusively use my own fruit for most of my production.
WHAT MAKES THE BUSINESS A COOL PLACE TO BE?
This is a unique enterprise, focussing as it does exclusively on a fruit that isn’t, and hasn’t been grown commercially. So it’s a challenge, raising awareness, telling stories and suggesting great food pairings: cheese, charcuterie, meats, game….
Fruit from other gardens in Norfolk is contributed to the business in exchange for donations to charities chosen by each garden owner or custodian.
My vision is to revive the medlar, in every way I can: I encourage people to plant a tree and suggest where they can buy one, try the medlar as a table fruit, sample the preserves, drink the medlar beer brewed by Norfolk’s Wildcraft Brewery, and from May 2021, sample the Norfolk Medlar Gin Liqueur made with Norfolk Gin (the county’s first artisan gin) and Eastgate medlars.
Medlars have a great back story, coming to England in the pockets of Roman soldiers who loved them as a luxury food. In cultivation by 13th century, they became very fashionable in Tudor times, Henry V111 being a big fan, in every sense. Remaining popular until the early 20th century, they featured in literature, at Covent Garden market and in the eyes of epicurean George Saintsbury, they were the perfect fruit partner to all wines.
IF YOU WEREN’T RUNNING THE BUSINESS WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING
I started the business after a successful diagnosis and treatment for early stage bowel cancer in 2015. Norfolk’s University Hospital had probably saved my life and, as all my children were off the pay roll, I wanted to test myself in a completely new way.
I’d always worked in the service sector: In the City where I used my European languages to promote portfolio investment into UK companies, and then training as and setting up a business as a Leadership Coach in the corporate sector.
Without the cancer diagnosis I expect I’d still be coaching.
WHAT’S ON THE HORIZON
Launching a Limited Edition of 240 x 50cl bottles of Norfolk Medlar Gin Liqueur in May 2021.
Using exclusively Eastgate medlars for the bulk of my preserves making from this year’s harvest (Nov 2021).
WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT
The fruit, being the only specialist focussing on the medlar. Being a grower and a producer.
Too many to mention… winning the Best of British category in 2017 Speciality Food Magazine’s new Producer awards is one. Launched me into Partridges of Sloane Square.
Discovering early on that I could be an intra county exporter, supplying medlar medlar preserves to several other counties. Oxon, Herts, Bucks, London, Suffolk, Essex, The Cotswolds, Shropshire… and yourselves of course.
A VALUABLE LESSON
Scarcity creates value.
People want to help.
Be generous and kind.
Buy a pressure cooker and discover how much BETTER how many foods taste when prepared this way. And Catherine Phipps, writer of The Pressure Cooker Cookbook. All round lovely person. Invite her to do a demo for your customers when it’s safe to get back to doing these things.
WHAT OR WHO IS YOUR INSPIRATION AND WHY?
No one famous, sorry.
The unofficial queen of pork pies, Sarah Pettegree, owner of Brays Cottage is a champion of the power of process and processes in a small making business. The knowledge I’ve gained has saved me time, conserved energy and boosted my productivity while also growing the business.
THINGS / PEOPLE YOU COULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT
My husband. He dug all the holes to plant 120 medlar trees in our orchard.
My daughters, including Ellie, owner and founder of AveDesign who created my branding.
The wooden spoon I’ve owned and used since I started cooking as a 17 year old.
FAVOURITE MEAL OR GO TO SNACK
Cheese. Anything with cheese.
WHAT SONG WOULD YOU LIKE TO ADD TO THE FARM PLAYLIST
Anything by Annie Lennox. I’m rubbish at remembering song titles…
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THE FARM STRATFORD?
Your commitment to your customers and to your producers.
I’ve visited twice, and there’s a wonderful energy about the place, an attention to detail.
If I lived nearby I’d be shopping with you twice a week.