Herbal Delights - Cornwall Life visits Halzephron and Living Food in St Ives

PUBLISHED: 13:52 06 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:07 20 February 2013

Halzephron has a try before you buy policy so come hungry

Halzephron has a try before you buy policy so come hungry

In our May issue we visit Halzephron and Living Food in St Ives, where culinary and medicinal benefits of herbs are used to create delicious and life-enhancing products.

Lesley Double visits Halzephron and Living Food, where the culinary and medicinal benefits of herbs are used to create delicious and life-enhancing products

If I were to offer one piece of advice, it would be this: never visit Halzephron on a full stomach. Their 'try before you buy' policy ensures that whenever you go to a Halzephron shop, you will be greeted by samples of jams and chutneys, dips and marinades, pickles and mayonnaise, and it would be a shame not to enjoy it.

Halzephron was invented by Debbie and Alan Fowler 14 years ago when they moved to Halzephron House, midway between Helston and Gunwalloe, with their three young children. "I'd always loved cooking and gardening," explains Debbie. "We discovered that the fields around Halzephron were windy but well-drained, making them perfect for growing herbs. At first we sold the herbs to restaurants and hotels, but this wasn't profitable. So I started experimenting with different recipes. We opened up the farm to the public and that's how Halzephron as we know it today was born."

A trip to Halzephron became a nice day out. With no entry charge and a constant supply of goodies to try and buy, visitor numbers rose to 40,000 a year. "We had been told that our business was perfectly legitimate," continues Debbie. "It was classified as a farm shop, even though it sold different products from a normal farm shop. But seven years later we were told to get planning permission for it. The retrospective permission allowed us to continue, but we had to reduce the size of our car park." Since this would have meant visitors parking along the sides of a narrow country road, the Fowlers felt it was time to branch out, so they opened their first shop in Fore Street, St Ives.

Although the shop area is much smaller than the original, the customer base is much larger, especially in the summer months when a stream of visitors is drawn inside by the enticing wares on offer. Halzephron products make a tasty take-home present and with the mail-order service, holidaymakers know they can buy foods they have enjoyed in St Ives when they get home. Locals also use Halzephron, and someone is always available to advise and suggest which marinade or dip would go best with what. The shop also makes up gift hampers as presents.

Debbie explains that she is also interested in herbal medicines, which have grown in popularity over the last few years. "Herbal medicines have been used for thousands of years," says Debbie. "In today's hectic world, many people suffer from insomnia, stress, exhaustion and depression, and herbal medicines have been shown to help."

In 2005, Debbie and Alan sold Halzephron to John Sellers from Gloucestershire, who had the time and energy to continue developing the business. As John is mainly interested in the food and lifestyle side of Halzephron, he sold Debbie back the medicinal range to join her new business 'Living Food'.

"Living Food is all about 'food as medicine', and all herbal medicines, seeds and beans for sprouting, and superfoods, are available in the Halzephron shops as well as from Living Food of St Ives, in Quay Street," says Debbie.

Medicines range from chickweed cream for eczema, devil's claw for arthritis, gingko leaf for concentration, rosemary for the heart, and arnica for bruises and sprains, which Debbie describes as "the absolute must for the mothers of boys!" Seeds and beans for sprouting include quinoa, which is rich in vitamins B and E, flax, which stimulates the immune system, and mung beans, the staple of Chinese stir-fries and useful as blood and liver cleansers.

Superfoods, which have few calories or 'bad' fats, include cranberries, which help symptoms of cystitis, wolfberries (goji berries), an ancient Tibetan medicine full of vitamin C, and yacon root from Peru, perfect for those who suffer from IBS. Also available is hemp, the best source of essential fatty acids, which lower blood pressure and regulate cholesterol, and the range includes savoury, sweet or hot seeds.

Despite selling the business, Debbie seems to be as busy as before. She works in the main St Ives shop, inventing new dips, chutneys and the like, although production of the Halzephron range has now moved to Penryn. "Donna has worked for me since she was 15," says Debbie. "She is now the manager and is assisted by her husband, Stewart, and her two daughters."

The wide selection of products on Halzephron's shelves is testimony that business is booming. The latest of these include Hot Cranberry Jelly, Cornish Herb Dressing, Raspberry Balsamic, and Fennel and Pernod Sauce. The Amalfi Salad Dressing contains basil, sundried tomatoes and wholegrain mustard, and the Eastern Promise Marinade is made with coriander, oriental spices and lime juice. Then there's the Lemon Marmalade, made from lemons, sugar, ginger, lemongrass and water, and a Garlic and Lemon Mayonnaise.

"We don't produce organic items, but everything we use is fresh, mostly locally sourced and we include no colourings or artificial flavourings," concludes Debbie. "Products containing lemons are made from the freshly squeezed fruit, and we even employ a lady whose sole job is to peel garlic!"

Halzephron: 62 Fore Street, St Ives, (01736 791891, 10 Lemon Street Market, Truro, (01872 272555, www.halzherb.com. Living Food of St Ives: (01736 791981, www.sproutingseeds.co.uk

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