To celebrate British Food Fortnight, we spoke to Eddie Barrett, Director of H.G. Walker Ltd.
(Image: Eddie Barrett, Director, H.G. Walker Ltd.)
H. G. Walker Ltd is a family run wholesale fruit and vegetable business.
For 133 years, H.G. Walker Ltd has specialised in supplying predominantly English fresh produce to London’s top food service industry suppliers.
Why should the food service industry and the public buy British?
"To preserve the beautiful garden that is Kent.
Kent is London’s natural larder, with some of the most beautiful countryside and orchards; home to the highly skilled farmers that have grown fresh produce for many generations.”
(Image: Early Windsor, Egremont Russet and Cox apples).
What types of British produce is popular over harvest time? What's incredible right now?
“We sell a wide variety of British fruit and vegetables, but right now it is simply all about the apples, pears and plums.
Over the harvest period, a popular apple we sell are Bramley apples.
They are perfect for baking and cooking with as they keep their incredible flavour and hold their shape when cooked.
There is nothing like the smell of an apple pie is there?
(Image: A very British Bramley apple).
We also have beautiful British plums, Victoria and my favourite, Marjorie’s Seedlings – both from Cam Valley Orchards in Hertfordshire.
They also grow incredible pears. My favourites are Conference pears.
The present owner is Tim Elbourn. A fifth-generation grower; the family having established their first orchards in the area in 1864.”
(Image: Conference pear trees at Cam Valley Orchards).
Do you have an interesting fact about a particular product that is now in season?
“If you are keen to learn more about fruit trees, look up Brogdale Collections in Faversham Kent.
They have the largest, national collection of British apple and fruit trees in the world. Almost like a tree sanctuary. You can go and visit the orchards and go on courses.
It is one of the most inspiring places on earth.
I am proud to have dedicated my career to fresh produce and encourage students to go to the collection and consider joining the vibrant fresh produce industry too.”
(Image: Brogdale Collections, inspiring hearts and minds).
Tell us a great fact about your business.
“My son Michael Barrett, Head Salesman, Andrew Dorling, Account Manager and I run this incredible legacy family business.
Andrew has 20 years of continuous service at H.G. Walker, his knowledge and dedication is exceptional.
Michael’s youth and enthusiasm has helped inject new concepts into the business, preparing for the future.
I have been at the market since 1982, working in sales for 38 years, I love this business.
H.G. Walker Ltd. has been trading in the old and New Covent Garden Market since 1887.
We have deep connections to British growers due to this.”
(Image: Eddie Barrett holding a box of prized Conference pears, from Cam Valley Orchards.)
Have you seen an increase in the sales of British produce?
“Although we sell international fresh produce too, we have definitely seen an increase in British produce as the public become more aware of the quality and provenance of British fruit and vegetables.”
In regard to British produce, can you give an example of how your company is sustainable?
“Nothing particularly high-tech! It is simply the fact that we buy on demand from quality farmers that painstakingly look after their land and wildlife habitats.
We keep our food miles down for these reasons too.”
(Image: M.J. Eastwood plums).
Can you give us information about a British fruit and vegetable grower?
“This is beyond difficult as there are so many.
The first is the award-winning J.G. Piper Cherries.
Colin Piper and his family grow the most incredible cherries you will ever taste. The season is ending at the moment, but worth the wait until next year. They fly off our shelves.
We also had amazing damsons from them, which were at their peak in August."
(Image: J.G. Piper damsons and M.J. Eastwood apples).
The second is M.J Eastwood. I have known Mark Eastwood and his family for decades. He specialises in growing plums and apples.
I am positive he knows every single tree intimately and keeps them healthy and producing due to this.
I have never met anyone who cares so much and is so passionate about his produce.
He grows Opals, Victorias and later in the season Marjorie’s Seedlings plums and Discovery, Early Windsor, Spartan, Russets, Cox, Gala and Braeburn apples).