fields of frost

frozen veg

2009 has started as 2008 ended; dry and bitterly cold. Not that we are complaining; it takes a while in the morning to get some of the older vehicles and younger staff going, but most pickers would choose cold and dry over warm and wet, provided the task at hand is fairly vigorous. It is a bonus to be able to walk cultivated ground in January without carrying ten pounds of mud on each boot and without having to be hosed down at the end of the day.

The frosts have got right down to our normally protected coastal fields; even the rock pools were frozen yesterday. Some of our less experienced co-op members are sweating a bit seeing their cabbage, leek, cauli and sprouting broccoli all frozen like iron. The last few nights have been minus six which would have been a disaster had it arrived suddenly on wet ground and soggy leaves. Plants are much better able to deal with a severe frost that builds slowly and arrives on dry ground. Provided the thaw is equally gradual I am confident the only casualties will be the cauliflowers that were starting to open, exposing some curd.

The most immediate problem for us is getting the stuff picked; you would need dynamite or a Kango hammer to extract leeks this morning. Picking frozen leaves is painful for our staff and risky for the veg; sometimes it will thaw out in transit well but sometimes it just slumps into a slime, so we are generally delaying picking until lunchtime. By then most of the frost has left all but the north-facing fields but this doesn’t leave enough daylight to get everything picked.

4 responses to “fields of frost

  1. My grandmother always refused to buy swede, parsnips or brussels until the first frosts had hit. She swore the vegetables had better flavour after a cold spell. Old wives’ tale or is there an element of truth in this I wonder?

  2. Parsnips definitly get sweeter after cold weather and are really not worth eating before November or even Decemeber. I think the science is that cold weather reduces the rate at whcih sugars are burnt in respiration and this leads to accumluation in the the plants tissues. Again potatoes will be sweeter if kept at low temperature though this can lead to blackening during cooking. Not so sure that the same applies for green veg.

  3. I am a relatively new box customer having recently returned to live in England, and Devon in particular. I love the short editorial that arrives with the vegetables as much as I love the accompanying recipe! I read the 12th January one (an edited version of the above blog I guess) to our collected guests at supper and we all agreed how much it stimulated our appreciation – of nature, of the vegetables, and of your team. As we enjoyed the roasted root vegetables we had a great discussion about the importance of staying connected to our food source and the people who grow it, and how shopping at the large supermarkets totally breaks any sense of relationship between the land, the seasons, and the local farming community.
    I also appreciate the care you take to explain your packaging policy and procedures.
    I think you are doing a great job, thank you.

  4. I totally agree with Erica’s comments above, ive become to appreciate, what is in season and avoid what is not, i also looked forward to Jerusalem Artichoke time of yr mainly because I grew my own for the first time.
    What an excellent idea! sharing the blog from river nene at a meal time and talking about the veg , i will try this with my 2 young girls, thanx for the idea.

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