Guy’s news: Revenge of the tomatillos

Some seeds will be taken by the birds, some will fall on stony ground, and some will be choked by weeds – but a few will find fertile ground and multiply ‘a hundredfold’. So goes the parable; and two millennia later, despite agricultural advances improving the chances for many crops, one saleable sweetcorn cob per four seeds sown is still a fair expectation. Here in France, we sow 86,000 seeds per hectare for the early crop. In a good year, we expect 55,000 to establish, and to pick around 20,000 cobs, having discarded those poorly filled and pest damaged. With increasing competence and favourable weather, we are managing around 30,000 cobs per hectare this year; something I assured my team was virtually impossible. Like Paddy Ashdown, I must eat my hat.

We might even have had more were it not for the tomatillos. They have self-seeded from previous years and grown as ‘volunteers’ with such vigour that we have struggled to control them between the rows and avoid them engulfing and choking the sweetcorn. Should I be driven out of France by Brexit, their seed may be my revenge, left to curse future farmers of this land. If all crops had
the vigour, disease resistance and sprawling dominance of tomatillos, farming would be a doddle. Luckily they make an excellent salsa verde with chilli, coriander and lime, to go with your barbequed sweetcorn.

We also have bumper crops of padron peppers, aubergine, squash, borlotti beans, and many different types of pepper, which will all be in your boxes over the next couple of months. The padrons taste infinitely better than any I have bought, though with the flavour comes more heat than might be optimal for some tapas eaters. As with so many crops, the flavour is better when grown outside rather than in a tunnel, but they are later and less regular in shape.

After six years, the French farm is finally doing well. It’s taken some hard lessons to find the crops that suit the soil, our skills, and hopefully your tastes; the experience has humbled and occasionally humiliated me, and I won’t be repeating it. But it gives me some satisfaction to suddenly find myself superfluous, and even an irritation. We’ve built such a skilled team that they no longer need me. So, I’ve left them to it and am writing this from the beach – with not a tomatillo in sight.

Guy Watson

3 responses to “Guy’s news: Revenge of the tomatillos

  1. Well done, Guy – another good read. I signed up to receive your blog because I enjoyed reading it when in Bedford visiting family. We live in Reims and I have just discovered the price per 100 m square of our garden. Perhaps growing tomatillos would give a good return on our investment! You don’t deliver to the Marne region do you? We have plenty of spare rooms if you want to look at the Champagne region one day.

  2. Excellent news and well done on your fabulous success. I really do hope you are not driven out of France because of Brexit. What a loss to us all that and all the other implications would be. Looking forward to my future boxes. I grow a little bit myself, because I love it but cannot hope to achieve the range and super varieties I enjoy so much in my weekly Riverford delivery.

  3. If you’re looking to use all those lovely tomatillos, you can do more than salsa. (Roasting them makes especially good salsa though.) This recipe is pretty tasty: But please keep growing them, for all of us lovers of enchiladas verdes who are delighted to have sources of fresh tomatillos at last!

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