Riverford Wicked Leeks

autumn contentment

I love autumn; after a hectic summer it is a relief to settle back into a more routine existence; plus there is so much great stuff to eat. With the equinox passed and the days rapidly drawing in, a contented melancholy settles over the farm as we finish the last of the summer crops and start bringing in the roots, squash and pumpkins.

Despite a drought followed by a miserable August, it has been a pretty good growing year. Planting conditions were good in the spring and most summer crops have done well. We are now harvesting some wonderful autumn crops of broccoli and leeks. The winter crops, planted in June and July, also enjoyed the wet end to the summer, so there will be plenty of those staple leeks, cauliflower, cabbage, sprouts and kale for the boxes. In the tunnels we are picking the last tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, peppers and chillies, before replanting with winter salads (rocket, mizuna, baby spinach and baby chard) which are more tolerant of lower light levels. We could hang on for a few more tomatoes, but the flavour declines rapidly and my brother makes a great chutney from any that have not ripened (available on our extras list).

Most of the potatoes are now in store. The early summer drought reduced yields in some fields but we are confident that there are plenty for your boxes through the winter. Dry weather tends to bring on potato ‘scab’ (a cankerous growth on the skin). Unsightly as it may be, it is just a cosmetic imperfection and some believe it even improves the flavour. So we will use all but the ugliest, in the hope that you are happy to peel it off and enjoy the spud below. Elsewhere, beetroot germinated unevenly during the drought. Those that did emerge unhindered by their brethren had to be harvested early to stop them growing into footballs. The next big job will be harvesting carrots while the tops are still strong enough for the lifter’s belts to grip and pull them from the ground. Last year a wet October and November meant that ten acres got left in the ground, so we have bought a super-fast new machine to help us make the most of the dry days.

Guy Watson