Guy’s newsletter: getting edgy with veg

As we plough in the last of our bolting leeks, kales, cauliflower and cabbage and see the back of the potato, beetroot and carrot stores, another farming year is consigned to memory and the accountants’ spreadsheets. I think they’ll show it to be a little better than average, mostly because of the weather but also boosted by a welcome renaissance in the eating of these more traditional veg. Kale has been riding that wave for a while now and after years of drifting in the sulphurous doldrums of neglected brassicas, even cauliflower seems to have made something of a comeback; I have seen it on fashionable menus roasted (good), baked brain like and whole (hideous to look at and worse to eat in my opinion), bashed with farfalle (dreadful), grated into cous cous (surprisingly successful) and served tempura style (excellent). I still think it is hard to beat the comfort of a reassuring cauliflower cheese on a January evening though.

Cauliflower does well in our mild Devon climate and, as we prepare to sow next year’s crop, I am tempted to up the acreage. But let’s not get carried away; a visiting journalist warned me last week that our white curds are already considered “a bit last year” in the metropolis. It’s hard to keep up with foodie fashion as tweeting journalists and hipster chefs compete to be edgy with veg. Of course we are grateful that what we grow is the subject of their twitter storm, however fleetingly its epicentre hovers over us, especially if it allows a humble cabbage grown on a Devon hillside to get a leg up over a jumped up bell pepper trucked from Spain (or worse still, molly-coddled in a fossil fuel heated greenhouse at home). It’s just a bit frustrating that the timeframes of fashion and nature are so disparate; by the time we have planted and nurtured our chioggia beetroot or purple carrots to harvest, it will be foraged nettles and broccoli sprouts that the twitterati are raving about. I might sow a few more caulis anyway; I reckon we will still be eating cauliflower cheese after the bloggers have moved on. There is so much to celebrate and be proud of in the rising interest in cooking, particularly with seasonal veg, and particularly among the youth, but no part of our farming is perfected without the repetition and tinkering that continues long after the catwalk has left.

Guy Watson

6 responses to “Guy’s newsletter: getting edgy with veg

  1. Ursula Collie

    And what about cauliflower soup, Guy, with cheese or a few toasted almonds, or I make a white chilli with white beans and cauliflower.

  2. Goood one!

  3. Great blog! We have regular egg related blog if you are ever running out of ideas for yours.

  4. Bring on the extra caulis. I spent part of my childhood in Devon and feel very good about reinstating some of that lovely soil as part of my molecular framework by eating the humble brassicas thereof.

    And thank you for the fino-dry commentary: it remains a high point of the veg box each week. Your fleeting epicentre of the twitter storm made me laugh.

  5. Jonny Thompson

    Edgy with veggy. Yep, Warhol’s 15 mins of fame even extends to vegetables now. Not so long ago kale was in, purple carrots, multi-coloured beans, then last year caulis, what’s next? Fashion has never been so fickle. (Fun though in a weird way, gives us something to talk about!) The million-and-one cookery programs, articles and supplements fuels it, and the internet in particular. I see a lot of newcomers on the allotment suddenly – did the hilarious Great Allotment Challenge fuel it or was it the myriad of Sunday supplement articles that make organic growing so current and attractive? Or the realisation that everything we buy from the supermarket is just rubbish? Interestingly, three quarters of the new arrivals fail at the first – once they realise there’s work involved, (and that their kids are really bored), they drift back to the supermarket shelves full of evenly-sized, nicely-scrubbed, decently-priced, tasteless veg that’s so easy to buy in a nice clear plastic bag. Only the strong survive. Me, well I’m growing mostly celeriac this year. (Or I would be if I could only get the damn things to germinate). Keep On Keeping On

  6. Shirley Booth

    Well said Guy (as you always do). How privileged we are to have ‘fashions’ in food. Rejecting a food because it’s ‘out of fashion’? Most of the world would hardly believe it. Here in Dorset I feel eternally grateful for the array of well grown food available- even cauliflowers! (I add pureed squash to my cheese sauce, which makes it even more yummy, and a lovely colour). Thanks to Riverford for all you do for country-sick city dwellers (as I once was).

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