The Diva Field May 2020

The Diva Field May 2020


Over the past few weeks the UK has seen a large increase in gardening. If you own outdoor space and have time to kill it’s very likely that you’ve turned your thumb green and got stuck into planting flowers, veg, or simply weeding your lawn.


Here at the Vegetable Diva we’re no stranger to growing things. We source all our produce from our own Diva Field and Diva Orchard in the small village of Burrington, Somerset, where we’ve developed a bio-dynamic ‘no-dig’ growing method. We’re extremely proud of the way we grow our veg as, through a combination of mulching and natural fertilising, we’re able to create plots of undisturbed soil bursting with beneficial organisms and microbes. The method also prevents weeds from growing and keeps the soil loose, meaning we can easily pull out the organic veg by hand. Of course, this also means we don’t need to dig into the soil with sharp blades, preventing the soil from damage and preserving its delicate condition.


This April, we’ve been hard at work tending to the field so we can help produce fresh veg to feed Bristol’s vulnerable people with the Bristol Food Union. It’s also a refreshing and stress relieving way to spend isolation.


So, what’s been going on at the Diva Field? I hear you ask.


Well, we’re rapidly planting up the fields with a myriad of plantlets such as beetroot, lettuce, cabbage and leeks. We’ve also been sowing carrots, herbs and agretti.


Fortunately, the weather has taken a turn for the better since the continuous rain throughout January to March, and as a result all these plantlets have been growing well. We’ve managed to grow successful harvests of spinach, kale, sprouting broccoli, lettuce, broad beans, currants, and some herbs. But there are also plenty more plantlets showing promise for the near future.


Although the weather has been delightful and the vegetable plantlets are flourishing, maintaining an orchard and field is no easy feat - especially when only one person can work on the field at a time. That’s why we’re currently on the lookout for volunteers who wish to join us and use their spare time to help improve our field and help grow tasty, organic veg.


To get involved and find out how it could work, please email




The Vegetable Diva.



We know not everyone can leave their house to get fresh fruit and veg for their families. That’s why we’re pairing with The French Garden  to create veg boxes that can be safely collected by those who can, and delivered to those who can’t.




We will maintain a 2m distance for all those collecting with allocated collection times to ensure there is never any more than 5 people waiting and request a charge of £2.95 for delivery. ALL COLLECTION WILL BE OUTSIDE


The boxes are filled with fresh fruit &  vegetables



In addition to this we’re also offering a selection of artisan breads & pastries along with two person ready meals such as root vegetable tagine, Italian 3 bean stew, mung dahl curry, vegetarian chilli kandal chickpea curry and freshly made soups.

Climate change strike Bristol

Thousands are expected to attend in Bristol tomorrow, does this support show that the majority of the population of Bristol care about climate change and want to reverse it?

Why then has their been no particular change in consumer habits by the overall majority. From observation regarding food the general appetite for pre-packaged food from mass produced food outlets does not appear to be decreasing, appetite for meal deals heavily packaged in single use plastic stored in energy hungry refrigerators are still popular, people are drawn to the price the three items and the convenience, the price to the earth does not seem to appear to be considered or the salary of the people who have produced and grown the food.

How can we make the biggest change in our battle against climate change; Diet, lifestyle, stop consuming, stop flying, stop patronising unsustainable business, stop buying plastic, become vegan the options are endless where do we start?. Do we rely on the government and national infrastructure to implement these changes will our individual efforts actually make a difference?.

There are many changes which I could comment on for the purpose of this blog I will stick to topics which I feel comfortable with.

The culture in the UK does not currently facilitate an eco-friendly lifestyle . It is a huge effort and sometimes very costly venture to be eco-friendly. Appalling public transport which is expensive, unreliable and does not service large areas of the country. This is coupled with the fact that rural areas have no pavements, public transport or cycle paths which are safe to use so there is no choice but to use a car.

This has other repercussions; the lack of footfall has ensured that there are no shops on the  high streets which ensures that buying goods from the supermarket in a large retail park is the only option, goodbye green grocer, butcher and local baker and sustainable local producer who showcased their good here. High rents has ensured that our streets are full of large chain stores and food delivery services and internet shopping have further ensured the closure of independent businesses. 

The national rail system is a shambles our rail journey to tour Cornwall was three times more expensive than taking the car. Health and safety restrictions has killed the street food trade.

There is a culture now of people ordering one coffee to their home!  by delivery companies I frequently why is their no legislation against this, why is take-away packaging still acceptable ?

I question the difference made by sustainability teams in large corporate companies it appears to be a greenwashing check box exercise. For example the free lunch check box for the employees poses no stipulations on what the budget should be. At the Vegetable Diva budgets of £2.50 pp are presented to us for lunch this begs the question are these companies gaining sustainability goals by enslaving others further down the food chain?

Universities and educational establishments around the country are focussed on profit rather than providing sustainable nutritious unpackaged food. The days of the subsidised canteens are gone canteens now appear to be full of laptops and plastic or bio-plastic wrapped toasties and sandwiches without a single piece of cutlery or crockery in site they can be found in the graveyard gathering dust in the redundant kitchen in the basement.

Food from the major supermarkets are heavily packaged despite concern for the planet their popularity does not appear to be decreasing. We at the Vegetable diva launched an instagram challenge buy no packaged food for a week and show us the evidence and win a free lunch sadly nobody participated.

It begs the question do we just want to join the party tomorrow or are we going to walk the walk rather than talk the talk, I have met a lot of customers who are walking the walk I would just like there to be more of them, lets hope tomorrows speeches from this formidable young activist will provide the necessary motivation.

Go Greta we think you are a legend!

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter, or add me on LinkedIn to stay in the loop with The Vegetable Diva and our cutting-edge community of Bristolian vegetable lovers.




Sonya - The Vegetable Diva.

Next Steps for The Vegetable Diva

Next steps for The Vegetable Diva

The Vegetable Diva was born as a way of creating a vegetarian emporium and community in the heart of Bristol. To that effect, it has been a complete success. From Tiffin deliveries and Christmas parties, to the regular customers who come to the café every morning with their reusable cup for a coffee and a pastry, I’m proud to say we’ve successfully built a community of vegetarian enthusiasts with a passion for sustainability.


The community I’ve built is exploding from all angles - in the best way possible. The No-Dig Diva field is set to become a registered charity; we’ve taken on more catered events than ever before; my own expertise is in high demand as a panelist for events and conferences; the cafe is starting to be used for bespoke masterclass events; and our social media is gaining more and more momentum.


So why change things when it’s going so well? I hear you ask.


I feel it’s time to capitalise on this success by driving my energy into focusing on specific elements of our success, in particular food blogging - sharing inventive recipes that i’ve created through a lifetime of cultural exposure, nutritional development, and a lot of eating. But to do this isn’t without a sacrifice; for The Vegetable Diva, the sacrifice is the café itself.


From Friday 21st February 2020 The Vegetable Diva café will officially close its doors for the last time. At least, in its current capacity.


It’s time for The Vegetable Diva to start a new decade with a new focus, and although I’ve loved cooking at the café, the reality is that for my mission to soar, the café can’t continue. One thing we truly loved at the café was the change in behaviour from container-less customers who were inspired to start bringing containers with them to be filled with our delicious food. I feel that we can make a bigger impact on package and plastic reduction if this message is disseminated through our procurement contracts.


Going forward, I’ll be sharing my recipes on this very website, with social media holding our vegetarian community together. This will allow me to spend more time on the No-Dig Diva field and more time promoting biodiversity/package free procurement at catering events, and even make appearances on TV and radio. So please stay in touch!


Follow me on Instagram and Twitter, or add me on LinkedIn to stay in the loop with The Vegetable Diva and our cutting-edge community of Bristolian vegetable lovers.




Sonya - The Vegetable Diva.

How Compostable is Compostable Packaging: Oct 2019

How Compostable Is Compostable Packaging; That Is The Question?

When I opened The Vegetable Diva I wanted to offer Take-away food which was affordably priced but did not effect the environment, I ummed and ahhed as to whether we should use take-away boxes and then offer discounts to customers who brought their own container.  A friend suggested  “Sonya go cold turkey start as you mean to go on” . This led me to think why not? at least I don’t need to wean people off.

A lot of our convenience culture and dependency on disposable packaging has happened due to its easy availability and in-availability of alternative options. We are trying to break habits by encouraging people to bring their own containers so that is one less piece of rubbish in the landfill.


  • Which brings us to the next question?
  • Surely it is ok if we use compostable packaging?
  • it will decompose won’t it?

Lets look at the facts:


Fossil-based or bio-based materials can be used to produce plastic which either biodegrade or compost. The diagram below shows the different types of plastics and bio plastics currently available in the UK.


Image taken from: WRAP | Understanding plastic packaging

Different plastics and bio plastics used in packaging

How are compostable bioplastics composted?

Currently biodegradable plastics cannot be recycled in the same way as non-biodegradable plastic.

It must be separated from non bio-degradable plastic streams and dealt with separately. If not, it causes problems during the recycling process.  The route for treatment and disposal must not compromise other existing recycling routes.

It may come as a surprise that , compostable plastic takeaway packaging was originally designed  to tackle food waste being contaminated with plastic packaging not to be the solution to plastic pollution and is not expected to break down in a marine environment.*2

Compostable materials are materials that break down at composting conditions. Industrial composting conditions require elevated temperature (55-60°C) combined with a high relative humidity and the presence of oxygen, plant-based packaging , including those made from polylactic acid (PLA) by companies such as Vegware, these conditions are rarely met in everyday biodegradation conditions: in soil, surface water and marine water.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires landfills to block out air, moisture and sunlight – crucial elements for proper biodegradation



A large percentage of bio plastics end up in the landfill where they do not degrade.Feb 2019). “That means that if your bag is like most “biodegradable” bags, it will just sit there, unable to decompose.”

In lay terms unless the biodegradable container which housed your take-away meal goes into a separate waste bin which is heading for an Industrial composting plant it is heading for the landfill where it will not decompose.

Compostable packaging examples

So how do you compost biodegradable bioplastic packaging

The best way to dispose of compostable plastics is to send them to an industrial or commercial composting facility where they’ll break down with the right mixture of heat, microbes, and time. Vegware is promising customers a “closed-loop” contract, where it supplies its products to businesses and then disposes of them. This  arrangement only covers 38% of UK postcodes.

BBC Wales News  Feb 2019

Harriet Giles beautifully sums up why we have decided not to use any packaging and opted for a refill policy with our ‘take-away’ menu.

“Bioplastics might sound good, but in reality, they are basically the same as plastic and don’t decompose in the way most people think they do. They often just end up as rubbish littering our streets, oceans and killing marine life. Bioplastics are a ‘false solution’ as they are single-use and there are extremely limited options to compost them. Ultimately, due the nature of when we tend to use bioplastics – as takeaway food containers and packaging – they end up in the bin and consequently as rubbish needing to be burned or landfilled.”



Hence we have come to the conclusion that the best solution is behaviour change a tiny shift when you leave your home take a box, leave it at work if you are office based and ask your take-away owner to fill this instead of using their take-away boxes. Currently over 650 take-away boxes are used by just one small take-away businesses in the UK. We feel that this is unsustainable and too great a price to pay for convenience, staff have been replaced by fridges containing pre-packed food and dishwashers and kitchen porters replaced by piles of un-compostable compostable packaging.

We the public can help push this movement by asking owners for the option they respond to consumer demand, I understand this is not always easy and you can get some  puzzling looks but small steps make big changes and the money they save on waste disposal and buying the packaging may mean a reduction in prices who knows, but one thing is for sure the planet will thank us for it.



Press release: Most bioplastics are “a load of rubbish”


“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

Christmas Menu

The Vegetable Diva plant based Christmas Menu 2019

Our festive vegetarian Christmas menu is written and we are now welcoming reservations for December.

The Vegetable Diva would love to host your Christmas party or gathering, whether it is with colleagues, friends or simply marking the occasion. The Christmas menu is seasonal and the majority of the produce come from our bio-dynamic Diva Fields.

We can welcome you at the Bristol Harbourside cafe for parties of up to 10, come and cater for you at your office or we have event space in Temple Meads where we can cater for up to 30.

Of course, it is the time of year where things are rather more decadent, hearty and warming; perfect winter dishes for feasting over with loved ones.

The Festive Menu will be available Monday – Friday
Large parties welcome – please email us with your enquiry


reservations can be made by emailing us at or calling 0117 929 8471

The Chef's Manifesto - May 2019

As part of the Bristol food connections week I was invited to attend the Chefs Manifesto at Poco’s in Stokes Croft. It was fantastic to sit in For those who are unfamiliar with the movment the chefs Manifesto is a based on 8 thematic areas


  1.          Ingredients grown with respect for the earth and its oceans

  2.          Protection of biodiversity and improved animal welfare

  3.          Investment in livelihoods

  4.          Reduce waste and value natural resources

  5.          Celebration of local, seasonal food

  6.          A focus on plant-based ingredients

  7.          Education on food safety, healthy diets and nutritious cooking

  8.         Nutritious food that is accessible and affordable for all


The Vegetable Diva was largely created by my own ethics and nutritional beliefs and it was encouraging to meet a group of like-minded souls.

We were very keen to be a part of this manifesto, so I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss how we fit into this framework?


Ingredients grown with respect for the earth and its oceans

Protection of biodiversity and improved animal welfare

We aim to harvest the majority of our ingredients from our plot ‘The Diva No Dig Plot’ We use no dig farming methods to encourage micro bio diversity in the soil and don’t use any chemicals, pesticides or herbicides. No we are not certified organic simply because we do not want the agrivation of the paperwork and being charged huge amounts of money to have our soil tested, we would rather invest the money in good quality mulch and seeds, but I can assure you that we farm according to organic principles.we have planted mixed hedgerows to encourage wildlife and birds and Black Mountain Hill sheep mow our grass. We have planted 100’s of trees in our 2 acre orchard which contain hives to pollenate our orchard. This prevents soil erosion and flooding in the local area, it is a mixed orchard so several types of British apples are kept in production as a result of this and you enjoy the taste in our wonderful apple juice which is on tap in our deli.

Elderflowers ready for making cordial at the Vegetable Diva
Vegetables growing in the plot
Meet our resident carbon free lawn mowers
Our 'No Dig Diva Plot'.
Charlie Armour our dedicated manager and horticulturalist.
Les Davies, orchard manager and Mendip Tree Warden.

Investment in livelihoods

We employ local workers and invest in our staff by sending them on training courses so that their skills are kept up to date. We provide sociable working hours rare in the catering industry. and gender equality in the work place. we have women and men in senior roles and there is no gender pay differences. We have supported small holders by providing grazing land and employed local labour on our no dig diva plot.

Reduce waste and value natural resources

Our deli is zero waste, its great it is a constant creative challenge,  our menu changes to accommodate fluctuations in the seasons and we are flexible and cook with what is in natural abundance and in season. We are a package free take away and use lids on storage tubs to avoid cling film, we wash all our cloths, no disposables.

Our polytunnel is not heated to reduce energy and the deli has been insulated and has no air-conditioning just ceiling fans which circulate heat and cool down. Our energy suppliers are bulb who use 100% renewable sources of energy. We don’t use palm oil in any of our products or stock processed products with these ingredients.

We are a vegetarian café so 100% plant friendly and we use lesser known vegetables in our dishes to ensure the public are exposed to a wide variety of vegetables.

Nutritious food that is accessible and affordable for all

Despite the fact that our food is made with love and care and is bespokely made, we still ensure that our prices are kept at a point which makes our food accessible for all. Our mission is to normalise the healthy eating movement and ensure that it was accessible to all members of the public regardless of social economic class. A nutritious meal can be obtained at our cafe for £6.00.

Field to Tiffin; Produce ripe for picking.
From Field to Tiffin; Some of the fruits of our labour from the field.
From Field to Tiffin; Preparing the seasonal greens for take away.
From field to tiffin
From Field to Tiffin; Kandala curry served with yoghur rice and seasonal greens.
From Field to Tiffin; Packaging our food in a non disposable tin.
Facilitating fruit sales to raise money at the local primary school.

Education on food safety, healthy diets and nutritious cooking.

Prior to opening The Vegetable Diva, I have instigated and run several community public health programmes a couple of examples include;

Farmlink education

I set up the community teaching kitchen for Farm-link Education and taught groups of 15 children from schools in North Somerset how to cook and prepare nutritious meals from scratch. I ensured they were quick and economical to prepare and also gave lessons on the benefits of macro and micro nutrients, seasonal produce and the benefits of eating a balance diets and how they could make this achievable.

Cook and Eat Lunch Club

To combat malnutrition and isolation in the elderly community leaving in sheltered accommodation I set up and ran the ‘Cook and Eat Lunch Club’ rather than simply provide a meal we cooked together, tasks were differentiated so that it was all inclusive and it gave an opportunity for the community to get together, eat nutritious food and increase their confidence.

I feel we have it covered, but there is always room for improvement and learning and collaborating from other people experience and ideas. We will continue to strive to maintain our pledge to this manifesto and encourage and support other businesses who choose to follow suit.

Getting hands on and preparing the food for the joint meal later
Farmlink Education Teaching Kitchen; Enjoying an amazing spread
Farmlink Education Teaching Kitchen; Enjoying an amazing spread
Farmlink Education Teaching Kitchen; Children learning cooking skills in the teaching kitchen which I set up.
Creating the kitchen with Natascha Clutterbuck's artwork.
Facilitating fruit sales to raise money at the local primary school.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

― Mahatma Gandhi