Guy’s news: The vegetable new year arrives

Geetie, my wife, says I stink of artichokes. My fingers are bitter with their sap, and my shoulders ache from lugging the tea picker-style baskets down the rows. Sitting in the office, I itch to get back to them, jealous if anyone else even suggests doing the picking. Fortunately Geetie likes the smell – as does our new dog, Artichoke (Arty for short). Globe artichokes are probably our least profitable crop, but this has done nothing to dampen my enthusiasm. 25 years on from smuggling my first plants back from Brittany and planting them from a pram shared with Alice, my first born, I love the crop more than ever. While they are in season I will cook them several times a week, until even I tire of their earthy bitterness. I appreciate that many find them a ridiculously timeconsuming, expensive and wasteful form of foodie one-upmanship, so they will seldom, if ever, be in the boxes. Instead they will be available to buy as ‘extras’; the large ones for boiling, and the baby ones for stews, frying, BBQs or roasting.

I might be mad about artichokes, but perhaps more significantly for everyone else, we have also started harvesting new potatoes, cucumbers, lettuces, spinach, salad onions, basil and various salad leaves, with cabbage and carrots just a few days away. After the spring deluge, we have now had less than an inch of rain in six weeks; beyond the reach of irrigation, it is getting dry. Early potatoes are struggling, and overly dry soil creates the danger of bruising at harvest – but most other crops are doing well, and catching up a little after a late, wet spring. Overall we’re happy, if a little anxious about those spuds.

Meanwhile, my youngest, Donald, and his mates are earning for their summer revelries by picking samphire from a local tidal salt marsh. After a few failed attempts to mechanise the painstaking task, they have returned to scissors and garden shears; on a good day, they manage just 15kg each in the six to eight hours between tides when the beds are accessible. Given the small quantities,
samphire will probably be an ‘extra’ only too. Wild marsh samphire (not to be confused with the cultivated stuff that is airfreighted in year round) is only around for about six weeks before the stems become woody. Grab it while you can – samphire’s tangy saltiness is delicious with scrambled eggs and fish.

Guy Singh-Watson

8 responses to “Guy’s news: The vegetable new year arrives

  1. Good luck to everyone in the new enterprise, and hoping the high standards of Riverford will continue for many years.
    Glad to see the Samphire is available again, but sorry to say have yet to justify the cost of cooking fuel on the Artichokes. It reminds me of something Giles Coren said a few years ago when receiving a veg box from that other place. He hates Parsnips and said that he could get them from the box to his compost heap in less than a minute!

  2. Wish I lived near by would give you a hand.
    Enjoy your produce x

  3. How do you have cucumbers so soon? 🙂

  4. I love everything Riverford, but Guy…£5.70 for a 400g box of cereal (Beetroot Granola)? A disheartening offering in light of so many in the UK living below the breadline.

  5. So delighted that Riverford is now employee owned. Congratulations and good wishes for an ongoing fantastic future.
    Thanks to all the team for my fab veg boxes. Never disappointing.

  6. I have just realised after buying Jersey Royal potatoes from two different supermarkets that they tasted well, just bland I have been spoilt eating my wonderful Riverford potatoes every week. The flavour knocks other potatoes into touch. The only problem is I could have eaten the whole bag like sweets. Well done for producing amazing veg.

  7. Michelle Bohlaender

    Agree with all that you say about artichokes … their expense, wastefulness etc. but i love them!

  8. I’ve just been up to my allotment and the globe artichokes have well and truly burst forth! Yes, they are a bit of a faff, and I won’t pretend we manage to eat every last one – but they are fabulous. Eating them boiled, with a vinaigrette to dip the tips before scraping off with my teeth always reminds me of the first time I ate them in France. Great memories.

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