Farmed and foraged on the Roseland, Wild Cornwall’s handmade, small-batch products are as good for the environment as they are for the soul.
Words by Hannah Tapping
Home to the Parnall Group, Trelonk Farm is something of an enigma. An agricultural outpost on the Roseland peninsula, its mission is to improve health and wellbeing through sustainable practices. Farming rich, nutrient-dense oil seed crops such as borage, sunflowers, calendula, camelina, roses and mustard as well as having a licence from the Home Office to cultivate Industrial Hemp Fibre, cultivation occurs via precision farming, using agri-tech monitoring and techniques designed to have a light earth touch. Trelonk Wellbeing was launched in 2020, producing concentrated pure essential oils from the farm crops with the intention of improving body and mind, a deeper delve into which can be found in DRIFT 16. What I didn’t realise was that at a similar time, additional alchemy was happening on the farm; and this time it was edible.
Left: Inspecting the borage fields at Trelonk
Middle: Anna with Arsemart
Right: Calendula in full bloom
Anna Pardoe, Director of Wild Cornwall and Chief Wilder, was able to fill me in on how this luxury, Cornish food product and gift set sister company came about: “It all happened quite organically really. We began making gift hampers, with all of the products developed by myself. We then added more products to the range and now, along with our online shop, we sell to retail outlets throughout Cornwall, which is proving hugely successful.” Wild Cornwall’s USP put in place by Anna at the outset, and the guidelines that new chef Sonia creates recipes by, are that ingredients need to be foraged, seasonal or grown on-site. Trelonk Farm extends to some 150 acres, which is largely given over to seed oil crops, meaning in the height of the growing season there are flowers as far as the eye can see and as it is a working farm, Anna and her team have access to a host of hedgerows for foraging. Having gained funding from a Countryside Stewardship grant, the farm also has areas of wildland which provides some of the more unusual ingredients. Having always worked in food and cooking, Anna was able to combine her experience with her passion for foraging to launch Wild Cornwall.
“I think the very first product was our Rambler’s sweet chilli sauce and, as with all of our products, the recipe was inspired by what was available on the farm,” explains Anna. “As my starting point, I’ll look at an ingredient that we haven’t done much with already and then ask myself what application could that take? For example, I might think we don’t do anything with rosehips… maybe a rose hip curd could work. Do we have a curd? No, so I need to make a curd, what can I use to make it? You can see how my thought processes work!”
As ingredients are so seasonal, scaling up is one of the big challenges that Wild Cornwall faces in the future. Anna is currently looking at the feasibility of creating a network of other farms (ideally organic, as that’s Wild Cornwall’s long-term goal) where she can work with teams of people, whether they’re on their books or own separate farms, so that they can access ingredients, both foraged and grown that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to to. “If we can get lots of people working with us on a really small scale, doing it really sustainably, picking by hand and leaving plenty for the birds then we could end up with an amazing network of people within local areas helping with the supply chain and keeping up production capacity. That’s really the dream.”
I’m eager to know if Anna has a favourite ingredient to use? “Well, I do have a least favourite,” she exclaims. “Hawthorn berries are such a pain, they’re 90% stone, but we use them in products like our Hawthorn ketchup so it is really worth it! But, I guess I like to use ingredients that people are less familiar with, such as mushrooms. The third sister company at Trelonk, Phytom Life Sciences undertakes nutraceutical plant research and grows all sorts of unusual products. It’s a bit like a science campus – they’re doing research all the time – and one of the really cool areas that they’re just branching into is mushrooms. We’re talking about a project together, where they can be growing their own specialised mushrooms for scientific research, and I can use them for Wild Cornwall products. Mushrooms have amazing properties, but there are dangers and risks to foraging wild mushrooms and they’re difficult to forage at scale due to damage to the ecosystem.”
Top Left: Anna Pardoe
Top Right: Reparative Hand Lotion and Soap made with bergamot, rosemary, and geranium
Bottom Left: Rose Sweet Chilli Sauce Bottom Middle: Lemon Verbena and Violet Gin Liqueur
Bottom Right: A Cocktail Hedgerow Royal made with Rosemary Vodka Liqueur and Crème da Mure
Wild Cornwall is home to a café, alongside a test kitchen and the super-sterile main kitchen where all of the products are cooked up, bottled and labelled in small batches. “In England, I think we have a bit of a terror about foraged wild food, so I’m always very conscious with our foraging to make sure that we are doing it properly,” says Anna.
With products in almost 50 independent shops across Cornwall and Devon, including National Trust outlets, as well as Jarrolds in London, Wild Cornwall brings a unique taste of Cornwall to many a discerning palette. Some of the products are Taste of the West award winners, such as ‘champion in class’ for the Rose and Strawberry Red Wine Vinegar, gold for the Blackberry Balsamic Vinegar and silver for the Sweet Basil Sunflower Oil. Alongside condiment and chutney favourites, the Wild Cornwall range now includes gin liqueurs and body soaps, scrubs and rubs.
“I think the future lies in growing things that nature wanted to grow in the first place,” concludes Anna. “So, we’re looking towards planting crops that just naturally want to be here, like sea buckthorn bushes. They will essentially be wild plants, but we want to cultivate them so that we can harvest them without stressing the land.” The range is diverse and Anna tries to be guided by the plant rather than the product although sometimes she falls down a veritable self-confessed rabbit hole of ideas – it’s a little reminiscent of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for plants! “I totally agree,” says Anna, “in my ideal world we would have wild garlic growing out of window ledges and hogweed coming through the ceiling!”