Puntarelle & Co.
BY NICK MACMAHON | 17 JUNE 2019
Puntarelle & co, who take the name from the Italian bitter-leafed winter green, are purveyors of the finest fruit and vegetables from small, passionate producers in the UK, Italy and France. During the British growing season, they stock around 80% local produce and the rest from Italy and France. The produce from Italy consists of all the products that either aren’t or can’t be grown in the UK. This includes a huge range of unique citrus fruits, as well as lesser-known vegetables only grown in Italy. They function mostly as wholesalers to a variety of greengrocers and shops around London, but on Friday and Saturday they open up to sell their produce to the public.
Puntarelle is run by Russian-born Elena Deminska, who started the business in 2014. Before that she worked for about 15 years selling produce in Borough market, alongside Tony Booth, a Borough Market legend and an instrumental figure in bringing a lot of unique and never seen before produce to London.
Elena is extremely passionate about sourcing and selling the absolute best, seasonal produce available. In the beginning, Puntarelle was supplying restaurants, but over time they found that meeting the demands of restaurants was just too difficult to do without lowering their standard of quality. Today, Puntarelle only provide ‘boutique’ fruit and vegetables to a select number of shops and grocers around London.
As well as sourcing the best produce, Elena is also focussed on running an ethical and sustainable business. Discussing her views on organic produce, she tells me;
“Organic doesn’t mean its good … Organic doesn’t mean enough, I prefer to know myself”
She tells me how producers can be accredited as organic in a country in drought and all the water for the crops has to be pumped in. And then there are the small-scale producers, who have been growing organically for generations, but they aren’t certified organic. For Elena, it is more important to personally know the producers and their practices, rather than relying on labels or certification.
Alongside selling produce, Elena runs London Fermentary, turning leftover produce from Puntarelle into ferments. Unsold produce is a huge issue in the industry. Elena's own experience from growing up in Russia, where preserving vegetables through fermentation commonplace and necessary to last through the harsh winters, it was a no-brainer to connect to two. London Fermentary has an exhaustive range of fermented foods for sale, from classic sauerkraut and kimchi to hot sauces and fermented kumquats. As fermented foods have now become a new big, food trend, London Fermentary has started holding classes for people interested in learning how to ferment at home.
Visit Puntarelle & Co.
Friday and Saturday 7am-2pm
5 Voyager Estate South