a bee boom & beans with inner beauty

Never have I heard such buzzing as I encountered cycling to work this morning. Stopping to investigate the din, I found myself under an avenue of lime trees in full blossom. Each tree was alive with what must have been hundreds of thousands of industrious bees harvesting the nectar for which the tree is famous. The wonderful spectacle was made all the more remarkable because, until a few weeks ago, there was a marked and almost eerie absence of these pollinators.

High summer is upon us and we are as busy as those bees and almost as organised. Farming has seemed like a mug’s game for the past two years, but it suddenly feels so easy in this weather. Planting, weeding, picking and irrigating is all going like clockwork, and our confidence in our ability as growers is restored. The farm reservoir levels are dropping but with good reserves of moisture in the ground, it will be a while before we worry about drought.

The one crop that has suffered a little is our autumn-sown broad beans, where a fungal disease called chocolate spot has developed faster on the pods than we would like. However, it is what’s inside that counts and as the beans within remain clean and flavourful, we have put them in the boxes rather than sending them off to feed the cows or ploughing the crop back in. It should not be for long though; we are now moving into the spring-planted beans which normally produce cleaner, better filled pods anyway. At the same time we are starting to harvest sugar snap peas. They are painfully slow to pick, even with this year’s fine crop, but the crisp sweetness makes them well worth the effort. For the uninitiated, prepare them by simply removing the stem end and perhaps the tip too (ideally taking the string from the pod with them) and eat the whole thing, pod and all. They are particularly great raw, in stir fries or quickly blanched and dressed, but my best tip is just to make sure that you try them, as the season is tantalisingly short.

Guy Watson