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Thérèse Coffey’s ‘eat turnips’ message leaves bitter taste after UK’s biggest grower gives up

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It wasn’t a cunning plan, but Thérèse Coffey sparked more interest in turnips than anyone since Blackadder when she suggested that people might eat them instead of tomatoes.The environment secretary’s response to salad shortages attracted more ridicule than Baldrick – even from Vladimir Putin, who suggested last week that sanctions against Russia had backfired on the west.

Turnips are good but they’ll probably have to get them from us, he said.Putin’s remarks had a thin veneer of truth. Although Coffey said people should “cherish” specialist British produce, she seemed unaware that Britain’s biggest turnip grower was in her constituency – and had stopped growing them months earlier.AW Mortier, near Alderton in Suffolk, had a near monopoly on the few turnips available in supermarkets but gave up in September last year because of stores’ unwillingness to pay higher prices to make up for rising costs of energy and fertiliser.“It just wasn’t worth them doing it,” said Andrew Thorogood, the managing director of S Thorogood and sons, a leading wholesaler that specialises in traditional English fruit and vegetables.“They were tied into all the supermarkets, and being tied down terribly.

The open-market price is much higher than the supermarkets are prepared to pay – that’s quite a normal thing these days.”He said there were “two or three” other growers who served independent retailers and restaurants. “Most of our turnips now come from either these two or three growers or France.

We import probably 70 or 80% of our product from France, and more and more from Spain and Portugal.”Despite their bitter taste and punchline status, turnips had made a minor comeback in the last few years, Thorogood said. “They’re very useful in Asian

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