Guy’s news – Don’t be dull; get bitter

The tree leaves are mostly gone, the ground is sodden and the sky heavy, but it is still warm. I find myself impatient for winter. November brings a dull light which keeps crops alive but without vigour, like the last of the fat, dozy flies lingering in the warmth inside my window; the game is definitely over, but death hasn’t quite arrived. Over the years, I have become less convinced of the wisdom of stretching the seasons of summer crops, particularly at the back end. A lot of effort goes into producing low yields which lack vigour, frequently succumb to pest and disease, and often disappoint in the kitchen. Better to let summer go; bring on the first frost, and roasts and stews aplenty.

Radicchio is the culinary highlight in a dull month; so handsome in scarlet and white, with a bitter brightness that restores my vigour. The last of the lettuces are usually a disappointment as light levels drop, but radicchio is from different stock. Descended from dandelions, which thrive in the partial shade of broken deciduous woodland, the dim, damp November weather only adds to its sweetness and succulence. The Italians have many different types of radicchio, with regional recipes to match, and will assert with total conviction that theirs is the only one worth eating. We grow Treviso (shaped like a Cos lettuce), and the more solid and winter hardy Chioggia (shaped like a cannonball). Enjoy them in salads (great with blue cheese, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and pears), in risotto (bizarrely with red wine), grilled, or with chilli, garlic and cream over pasta.

We have had a great sunflower crop in the Vendée. One day we will make oil, but this year we are again offering them as bird feeders. Hung in your garden, they will provide hours of entertainment for you and your birds. £1.95 for two.

I am buoyed by the growing acceptance of radicchio, but suspect my enthusiasm for bitter has gone too far with cardoons; seldom have I had more complaints than when we put them in the boxes last year. But they are at their most succulent now, and I can’t quite bring myself to plough them in. So, in one last throw, I am offering them totally free. All you have to do is order (and cook; my gratin recipe is included). Bitter lovers, enjoy… the rest of you can stick to your dull sweetness.

Guy Singh-Watson

24 responses to “Guy’s news – Don’t be dull; get bitter

  1. Thank-you Guy – I’ve never tried radicchio but i’m going to give it a go!

  2. I do adore a raddichio & red wine risotto. And I’m in possession of around 20 cardoon recipes I’ve never been able to try so super excited to get a chance now, thankyou for not ploughing them in!

  3. Did you blanch the cardoons? I tried it once but the cardboard became full of earwigs…

  4. I love your cardoons! looking forward to getting some in my box next week..

  5. I’ve never tried them so I’m curious to find out what they are like so ordered some.

  6. I remember a wonderful cardoon soup in Spain (Aragon) after a morning of watching overwintering Cranes in light snow. It was delicious. I’d love some next week.

  7. I’ve never tried cardoons so having a go and never received a freebie either! I love artichokes arethey similar! Thank you so much Vegan

  8. I have looked forward to cardoon season since you first launched them – converted a lot of friends and family with Guy’s gratin recipe. Very happy to get them for nothing, but it’s such a shame that they weren’t more of a success. Please keep growing them, I love bitter veg and can’t afford to go to Italian markets every week for my fix!

  9. Thanks Guy I’ll try the gratin recipe. I love bitter veg too shall try to convert my daughter to it too. Natalie

  10. Last year we tried cardoons for the first time and it was a sucsess!

  11. Please, please, please don’t produce and sell sunflower oil without educating your customers about its properties. This is just one of many well-researched articles on the pros… and cons:

  12. Cardoons! ?@?*%? Sounds like an ancient Scottish custom!
    I do love the more savoury and bitter foods so I will give them a go and thank you for doing it for free, so that I cannot bitterly regret trying them.😉.

  13. Definitely give them a go, thank you for offering them for free.

  14. Would like to try them, never had before. Can’t go wrong for a free tasting

  15. Look forward to giving the Cardoons a go-first time for everything!

  16. Never tried them so please could I try them this week

  17. Would love to try them please.

  18. Thanks for that. I do love a good « Gratin de cardons » since it becomes quite a popular dish at home in Lyon, especially when approaching the Christmas festivities.
    I’ll be giving it ago using this recipe

  19. So much enjoyed the cardoons and your good recipe last year and look forward to this week’s freeby. Many thanks.

  20. Richard Lockwood

    We are willing to try something first week with Riverford second delivery tomorrow
    Love the free book
    Regards Richard

  21. Cardoons – after I had got over the fact there were slugs and woodlice in the stems, I know they are organic but that doesnt help me cope with them, I followed instructions for preparation and made the gratin, putting in a bit of potato. I tasted them before the gratin and yes I could taste artichokes, wonderful, but then the bitter after taste followed. Not to be put off I made the gratin with potato as well and low and behold the most tasty dish I have had for years.

    • Hi Sara, i too was surprised by the slugs at first. But then remembered that’s a good sign. Absence of life would be sign of insect and other -icides.
      I would probably never have cardoons on their own. But I made a gratin and everyone loved it. It must be the combination of bitterness and the milk’s sweetness that marries up well.

  22. Thanks for the free cardoons! Probably wouldn’t have been motivated to try them otherwise. Tested a NY Times recipe for butter-braised cardoons with mushrooms, garlic and breadcrumbs. I added some grated parmesan with the breadcrumbs. A very tasty lunch. Might try a gratin next week.

  23. How rude of me, I completely forgot to thank you for the free cardoons. And, yes if they are good enough for the slugs they are good enough for me, must mean they have not got nasty pesticides.

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