Riverford Wicked Leeks

Asparagus, optimism and relief

A cool May has restrained the flowering urges of our purple sprouting broccoli, leeks and cauliflower, giving us the bonus of an extra two to three weeks picking. With the barns empty and the last of 2012’s crops ploughed over, we can finally say our annus horribilis is over. Hurrah! I haven’t been happier to see a plough in a field since I ploughed my first disastrous strawberry crop back in the 80s. I remember whooping from the tractor seat. 

Looking forward, most of spring has gone well; there has been enough dry weather to create good seed beds and plant in the right conditions, with rain at the right times for germination and establishment. The persistent cold means that most crops are running two to four weeks late, but the prevailing feeling amongst growers is one of optimism; a strong healthy crop is the best way to banish memories of last year. This week sees the first Devon-grown little gems, wet and fresh garlic, pak choi, salad onions and salad leaves in the boxes. The cold has meant a slow start to our asparagus and rhubarb season. Asparagus is a hard crop for organic growers; all the weeding has to be paid for from a very short season which ends in late June to allow the plant to recharge its roots. Two weeks lost at the beginning will be hard to make up. Rhubarb loves cool damp weather and we are now into the thick of the crop; it will be on extras and occasionally in the boxes through to the end to July.

As I type this, my son is grilling me about us pre-empting our season with asparagus from Pepe, our grower near Granada in Spain; when did this seventeen year old become such a purist? Logically, based on carbon foot print, I have no trouble defending working with Pepe. He is a small, highly committed grower, cultivating the same small fields farmed by his family for generations which are irrigated using snow melted from the mountain surrounding his farm. We like him and the quality is always good, but is there something iconic about English asparagus? Should we make you wait? 

Guy Watson