Bodnant Welsh Food Veg king Medwyn hunts Wales’s oldest carrots

The UK’s most successful veg grower Medwyn Williams has launched a search for Wales’s oldest variety of carrot – dating back to the 16th century.

Produce from his Anglesey gardens have just gone on sale at Bodnant Welsh Food Centre in the Conwy Valley, with fresh picked lettuce through to rhubarb on offer.

The expert grower  – who picked up a record-breaking 11 gold awards at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show  – now wants to track down more Welsh varieties to grow and sell at Bodnant.

The shop was recently named as the best Farm Shop in Britain by the influential BBC Good Food magazine.

Medwyn, who runs his veg growing business at Llanfair PG with son Alwyn, is convinced that the carrots won’t be orange – but purple, yellow or even black.

He said: “Carrots date back to the 1500s but originally they were not the orange we expect to see today. Those were bred in Holland because of the Dutch House of Orange, in the 1600s.

“I want to go back to these old varieties and I suspect that in a corner of North Wales somebody will be growing them, unaware of the huge amount of history behind their little patch of carrots.”

Medwyn is among a host of new North Wales based suppliers for Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, said Managing Director Chris Morton, who oversees the £6.5m centre at Tal y Cafn.

“When we were looking for new vegetable producers we wanted somebody that shared our vision of excellence who was able to supply new and usual varieties.

“We know that when cooks, both amateur or professional, visit our farm shop they are on the look-out for ingredients that will inspire them, as well as being tasty.

“Overall, 45 per cent of all products sold in the shop are produced at Bodnant Welsh Food centre, and three-quarters comes from Wales, including specialist foods from over 100 artisan producers,” added Chris.

Medwyn, who grew up in Llangristiolus, is also Chairman of the Royal Horticultural Society Fruit Vegetable and Herb Committee and President of the National Vegetable Society. He began growing veg when he was just eight, helping out his dad, a farm worker renowned for the length of his prize-winning carrots.

He is presently carefully tending his latest batch of carrots ready to put on display at July’s RHS Flower Show at Tatton in Cheshire.

“Today you can buy veg  seed easily – I sell seed myself for the giant varieties – but in years past such seeds were raised and kept each year by gardeners, with varieties very localised, often to the main mansion in the area – where the owners could afford gardeners to tend the grounds. Those gardeners, who guarded their stock, sometimes took the seeds home and raised them there as well for their own family, with the varieties passing down through the generations.

“So it is possible there are keen amateur growers using varieties of seeds that have been in the family for years and years. I’d love to hear from them.

“There is a growing interest in heritage varieties of carrots: they can look great on the plate and the taste is different to the usual orange versions as well,” added Medwyn.

Bodnant Welsh Food centre at Furnace Farm, Tal-y-cafn, in the Conwy valley, has its own dairy making cheese and ice cream, plus an on-site bakery and butchery, with award-winning pies. There’s also a wine store and tea rooms plus the Hayloft restaurant and farmhouse accommodation. More details at or call 01492 651100.

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