Riverford Wicked Leeks

a week is a long time for a lettuce

Last week our crops were looking fantastic and I was waxing lyrical about a perfect spring, but after a week of incessant rain and gales, with barely a glimpse of sun, some fields are now looking trampled and forlorn. The wind is a curse for any leafy crops especially if they have grown excessively lush, as they are prone to under crop covers. We have planted a tremendous number of trees on the farm but during this sort of weather I wish I had spent more of my impatient youth planting windbreaks rather than vegetables. Wet weather brings planting and weeding to a halt because the soil becomes too sticky and fragile for the machinery to work. Even hand weeding and hoeing becomes very tiresome. The forecast for next week is back to dry, cool north westerlies so by the time your 'vegbox' arrives we should be drying out and catching up.


We have just started picking strawberries. With no sun and our recent deluge the flavour is disappointing but I am sure it will improve. Strawberries are one of the most challenging crops to grow organically because of the ever-present threat of the Botrytis fungus which thrives in damp weather. Most soft fruit is now grown under plastic tunnels (even then it will be sprayed regularly with fungicide); indeed most of the supermarkets insist on it, which is why so much of Kent and Herefordshire has disappeared under a sea of tunnels. We are persevering with a much more extensive, open-air system with wide plant spacing on top of large ridges to give plenty of air movement, thus keeping the fungus at bay. We can only pick in dry weather and we try to ensure the berries go in your boxes the day they are picked to be on your doorstep the next. A shower of rain can catch us out and there will inevitably be times when we list strawberries on the box contents and you get something else instead and vice versa.


As we reach the end of our old potatoes, the last variety Valor, while mostly still of good quality, is keen to sprout arms and legs and as the starch turns to sugar, sometimes blackens on cooking; not perfect I know but the best we have from the UK. Until our first potatoes are ready in late June we will be alternating the Valor with Ostara new potatoes from the Isle de Batz, a small island just off Roscoff in Brittany. We buy them every year and though I have not yet tasted this year