Carrots old and new

turnips in France

turnips from the French farm

This is coming to you from our farm in the French Vendée, where the sky is always blue, the cows fat and the vegetables plump. Most of the crops planned to fill our hungry gap; lettuce, spinach, cabbage, beans, navets (baby bunched turnips) and courgettes have recovered from the March gales and are lapping up the sunshine.

Fennel has suffered from a minor plague of ragondin; giant, beaver-sized rodents with six inch whiskers and a particularly French appetite for anis,

carrots with ragondon at Riverford in France

the carrots have been overtaken by the ragondin

but the carrots are this year’s disaster. Just before the seedlings emerge we like to pass over the rows with a gas-powered flame weeder, to kill any weeds unlucky enough to germinate first. But the flame weeder broke and before we could replace it the carrots were up, accompanied by a rash of a weed known locally as ravenelle. I have never encountered such an aggressive plant; like docks on steroids it clambers on top of the crop then pushes its rasping, thistle-like leaves down, crushing any competition back into the ground. It made me think of Vinnie Jones defending a corner in a Wimbledon penalty area; a real bruiser of a weed. Even after mechanically removing all the weeds between the rows, progress on hands and knees up a row is down to 30 metres an hour. First loss is best loss, so this morning, despite the valiant efforts of the work force, we abandoned and ploughed in the first half the crop, rather than watch the ravenelle triumph and potentially set seed to plague us in years to come.

batavia lettuces at Riverford in France

batavia lettuces the size of dinner plates

Back at home the dormancy of our old-season carrots can only be enforced for so long and we will run out before the end of this month. In previous years we have imported carrots from Spain or Italy to bridge the gap between seasons but the flavour is invariably poor and we had hoped to avoid them this year by growing some in France. With this plan foiled, we are planning a few weeks of carrot-free boxes in late May or early June. I have detected a little carrot fatigue recently so perhaps that will be a relief. Are carrots a ‘must have’ staple? Should we indulge you with some well-travelled bland imports from Southern Europe? Answers to carrots@riverford.co.uk.

Guy Watson

15 responses to “Carrots old and new

  1. Happy to be without carrots for a few weeks … I don’t think carrots are necessarily the stable food they once were in family homes (I may, of course, be wrong). I love the taste of the local carrots but my children will be pleased with a break from them! They, with the cauliflowers, tend to build up in the fridge!

  2. Onions and potatoes are more staples for us than carrots, and to tell you the truth the carrots have been un-magic this winter. I thought you did very well keeping going through the months of freeze but I am looking forward to a more delicate spring taste.

  3. As mentioned carrots are not essential. I enjoyed the winter veg, carrots, leeks celery and potatoes with some pulses and riverford chorizo. Now looking forward to the courgettes, spinach, french beans and salads. Keep up the good work.

  4. Happy to go without carrots for a few weeks, would rather do this than import poor quality. We seem to have a gluten of onions at the moment, not sure what to do with them

  5. Does Vinnie know about this? Love carrots but not the bland watery ones – “you can’t have everything!”

  6. Gidday from the UK

    Thank goodness for a carrot respite! With a partner who is not enamoured of this vegetable, I have been struggling with their abundance in weekly veg boxes of late….

  7. Would rather go without carrots than have them imported in specially to meet the demands of palette expectations! Also agree with the other comments about looking forward to different spring tastes. It could get me out of the cottage pie habit!!

  8. Elizabeth McKAY

    Would be very interested to know the whereabouts of your farm in the Vendee as I am currently shooting a documentary in the area.
    In Chanzeaux near Chemille to be precise.

  9. I love carrots, but I would much rather have a break from them and have them replaced by something else for a few weeks then to have inferior ones. If you only offer carrots in the additions list and say the seasons box then people can make their selections if they really need carrots that week.

  10. Happy to do without carrots for a few weeks. The whole point of organic is taste the difference…whats the point of bland imports at extra carbon cost?

  11. Quite glad to be without carrots for a while, looking forward to the new seasons veg.
    No point in importing low quality produce when there is so much else in the boxes

  12. Definitely happy to be without carrots for a while rather than import. Dont get me wrong, I’m a big fan, and like most Riverford veg they always taste great but being a veggie I struggle sometimes to think of different ways to use them up. If you are ameat eater I imagine it would be much easier, i.e. ‘meat and two veg’ for dinner! Like others who have commented I am looking forward to something that grows above ground for a while. The psb for instance has been fantastic.

  13. We definitely use carrots as a staple, in fact we have to top up our box every 2 or 3 weeks with extra carrots from Riverford or elsewhere. However, it is no pain to go without Riverford carrots for a few weeks, we shall simply buy from elsewhere. Unlike Guy, leaves are lowest on our list of desired vegetables, although we find that Hispi cabbages are the best of the leafy veg, but they seem to have been in short supply recently. Chard and big old spinach leaves are lowest of all, though baby spinach is OK.

  14. Our kids live on raw carrots for school lunches and snacks. To not have them in thehouse would be a disaster, however, they need to be nice carrots and we would source elsewhere rather than have the recent ‘soft’ carrots we have had or watery ones. We love the pointed cabbage and could eat a few each week but they are not on the extras list.

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