The Great British pulse

By Nick Saltmarsh

Brampton, Suffolk, England

Hodmedod’s is a unique British business pioneering the revival of local pulses. In this film, the Sustainable Food Trust went to visit Hodmedod’s lentil field trials and their warehouse to find out more about the potential of British-grown pulses and their role in sustainable farming.

The Hodmedod's story

Hodmedod came from a simple realisation that British farmers were producing superb fava beans, but barely any were used for domestic human consumption. Instead, the best beans were exported, mainly to Egypt, with the rest used for livestock feed. Meanwhile, almost all the pulses consumed in the UK were imported.

We provide an alternative to commodity markets for arable crops, to encourage more diverse cropping and to offer an ever wider selection of British-grown wholefoods. By working directly with farmers and selling direct to individual customers as well as retailers, caterers, wholesale and manufacturers, we are unusual in the breadth of the food web we span.

Our initial range of four types of pulse proved a catalyst to work more widely with farmers and build long-term relationships to both develop a new domestic market for little-known crops, such as camelina, and to develop production of new or rediscovered traditional crops, like naked barley, quinoa and lentils.

We underestimated the difficulty of selling an unfamiliar product and the latent demand for a wider range of British wholefoods. When initially approaching food publications to run recipes for fava beans to help raise awareness, we were told they couldn’t run recipes with ingredients that weren’t widely available.

Seven years on, the wonders of beans as delicious and nutritious sources of plant protein are widely appreciated, which is fantastic to see.