Riverford Wicked Leeks

a little help from our spanish friends

With continuing cold weather holding back growth, combined with some crop losses from the extreme cold before Christmas, we are very short of homegrown greens, forcing us to import more than we would like at this time of year. We have plenty of roots in store and there will be purple sprouting broccoli, spring greens, cauliflower and leeks to come as soon as temperatures rise. In April and May, as we get into the ‘hungry gap’ (between the old and new season crops), our dependency on imports will inevitably rise again if we are to maintain variety and balance in the boxes.

Rather than buy on the open market, our aim is to work as closely with our Spanish and Italian growers as we do with our local co-op. Most crops are now grown to a program by growers we like and trust, with a long-term commitment to organic growing that is based on values and beliefs, as well as commercial gain. Building these relationships takes time: time trading together and doing in practice what we said we would in theory, time in the fields, time around a table eating and normally time in a bar. Last week I took a trip to visit the growers in Andalucía.

First stop was Ave Maria near Seville, where Amodora and her two daughters have been growing Seville oranges organically since 1986. You couldn’t get much more organic than their orchards and with a cupboard full I can vouch that their oranges make the best marmalade. You probably have another two weeks to get boiling before the season is over; see our website for a recipe, to order a kit and for a video clip to guide you. Next was Pepe who grows spinach, onions and garlic, but most of all asparagus (in the boxes late February to late April) in a fertile valley north of Granada, when he is not hang gliding in the hills that surround his farm. Paco and his groups of growers on the coast near Motril grow tomatoes, peppers, green beans, lettuce, cucumbers and much more in some wonderfully fertile soils where, unusually for Andalucía, there is plenty of water. The broccoli in some of the boxes has been coming from Las Hondonaras; a co-op in another fertile valley east of Granada. See www.riverford.co.uk/blog for photos and a commentary of the trip.   

Guy Watson from Riverford in Devon