Guy’s Newsletter: hasty veg & a bitter imposition

We are finally enjoying some very welcome cold, dry and bright weather. It will take another week before our most free-draining land dries enough to allow any soil preparation for planting though; spring still feels a long way off. Most winter crops are running four to six weeks ahead of schedule due to the mild winter so far, while our other fields look worryingly bare; it will be three or four months before the spring crops are ready. We still have plenty of roots, kale and leeks, but there will be gaps left by the hasty cauliflowers and cabbages, so we will have to juggle our box contents planning a little.

In contrast to this, over on our farm in France a break in the weather allowed us to plant the first batavia lettuce this week, as the sandy soils there are more forgiving. The first cos lettuce will go into the ground tomorrow; the seed bed was prepared and covered back in October, avoiding the need for any cultivation now when it is difficult to get machinery on the wet land. We plant by hand this early in the year, but still need a tractor to bend hoops and lay the low-level polytunnels that will protect and advance the crop, allowing us to start cutting in late March. Overall our farm in the Vendée has come a long way to filling the UK’s Hungry Gap, but it looks as if that gap might be wider than usual this year. Thankfully, after five years on our own, an organic neighbour will be growing spinach for your boxes in late April and May.

Most of the crop planning for the coming season is done, and seeds and plants ordered with just a few details to refine; I would be grateful if some of you could pass comment on the pale green, solid-ish, bitter and crunchy heads of pain de sucre (salad chicory) that have been in some boxes over the last month. I love growing and eating them and they provide some winter variety without the need to go 1000 miles south, but is this a bitter imposition or do you like them too? There is a very, very brief questionnaire at www.riverford.co.uk/paindesucre; I am just as keen to hear from the haters as the lovers.

Guy Watson

4 responses to “Guy’s Newsletter: hasty veg & a bitter imposition

  1. Found the salad bags wonderful each week with amazing variety BUT would not have the chicory type lettuce again. Interesting to have tried it

  2. I have loved raw endive (chicory) all my life and managed to get used to cooked endive while living in France for many years. The problem with pain de sucre – or at least the one I tried – is that it’s tough. Even my French husband is reluctant to eat it. I expect I’ll give it another go some time – everything needs another chance.

  3. We loved the pain de sucre. Used it cooked with your recipe, which was easy and delicious. Would buy it say twice a month.
    Thanks for getting us to try new veggies…cardoons, oca, tomatillos, padron peppers etc! Great stuff.

  4. It’s a bit of a struggle to think of a way to use it, being so large. To many cabbage style things in general. I like the kale type things..
    Apples are great and broccoli far fresher than I can buy anywhere else…

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