Giving platelets with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Up from his River Cottage HQ in Devon, celebrity chef and food activist Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall spoke to us while giving platelets at Bristol Donor Centre

So, Hugh, when did you start donating blood?

I think the first time I donated was at least 15 years ago. I found it really hard to get a regular rhythm going at first, partly because I was often away filming in exotic places (which was a nice thing to do but restricts when you’re allowed to donate).

I’ve tried to donate more regularly over the last three or four years, and on a good year I probably mange to donate 7 or 8 times (including platelets).

You know your blood type, then?

You know what, I checked it again the other day because I keep forgetting it – I’m A positive. I’m told it’s great for donating platelets, which is what I’m giving today. It’s a slightly longer process, but it gives me a good little break in my day. There’s a bit more appointment flexibility too, so my aim is to give in Bristol once a month if I can.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall donating platelets
Hugh donating platelets at Bristol Donor Centre with his reusable coffee cup

How did you come to start giving blood in the first place?

I have a lot of fun making TV shows where I challenge people, businesses, the government, to do more for the environment, our health or whatever it might be, and I find that very exciting and rewarding – but it’s often very hard to know that you’ve made a difference when the world is such an ambiguous place.

There’s something wonderfully clear cut about donating blood. You know that anyone can benefit from what you’re doing, and one day it could be you. Giving blood is a no-brainer.

How did you find out about giving platelets? How did you make the jump from blood to platelets?

I think I just picked up a leaflet and read about it; it felt like going up a level. It felt like graduating.

Do any of your friends or family donate blood?

Yes, they do, but I’d like to convince more to donate – it’s easy and very satisfying.

Now when I donate I’ll quite often overlap with other donors I recognise, so there’s nodding and smiling with regulars, and I’ll chat to the staff, who are fantastic.

I get itchy if I don’t do it for a while; I start to miss it. Donating blood is one of those things you feel great about so go ahead and register now. There’s no downside.

It’s important that donors get their iron levels up before they donate – is there anything you’d recommend?

I always try and have a good lunch if I’m donating in the afternoon. Any good, healthy food: veg, salmon, and spinach of course.

I’ve got a recipe called very green soup and it’s very simple to make from an onion and a carrot, and maybe a potato, as well as any combination of spinach, watercress, kale, even stinging nettles in the spring. A lovely green soup.

Have that with a poached egg, a bit of toast or some oatcakes, and you’re all set to donate.


Why Hugh's soup is an ideal pre-donation meal

Hugh’s very green soup recipe makes the most of leafy greens like spinach and parsley that are a great source of iron, and makes an ideal pre-donation meal, especially for donors on a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Spinach, as well as the orange juice included in one of Hugh’s variations on the soup, also contains vitamin C, which helps the body to absorb iron.

View the recipe