Tag Archives: dandelions

guy’s newsletter: spring greens & immortality

It appears I am going to live forever. According to researchers at University College London, up to 3 veg a day decreases mortality by 14%, 5 by 29%, 7 by 36% and 7+ by 42%. As I live and breathe the stuff I reckon I must be immortal. Maybe I should buy an annuity after all, just for the pleasure of getting one over on an insurance company. Will the actuaries now start asking how much cabbage you eat alongside how much you smoke and drink?

I am generally cynical about headline-grabbing research as scientists and university chancellors have often had PR training and become media tarts like the rest of us. That said, like most people I am always partial to research that backs up my own prejudice. Never mind wonder diets, cholesterol-busting superfoods and antioxidants; my abiding belief is that the closer our diet is to the one we evolved to eat, digest and assimilate over millennia, the healthier we will be. A varied diet including moderate quantities of animal fat and protein, minimal processed food and additives and loads of fresh fruit and veg with as little cooking as possible is a good place to start. If you can combine that with enjoying your food while not worrying about it, so much the better.

My current veg enthusiasms include spring greens, though quantities are limited due to some unplanned foraging from our cows. After a long winter the greens are small and look a little rough but are the tastiest we have ever grown. Lightly cooked they are so tender it’s almost sacrilege to add salt, butter or lemon. From the woods my children and friends are busy picking wild garlic; great in a pesto with hazelnuts, folded into an omelette or, for the hardy, raw in salads. However my absolute, liver-cleansing favourite is dandelions, blanched, lightly cooked with garlic and chilli and tossed with pasta (recipe overleaf). We have a few cultivated ones from our polytunnels for sale on extras, or pick your own.

Meanwhile for those among you with a garden of your own, we have used agricultural fleece available to keep the insects and the worst of the weather off your veg; roughly 30-40m2 for £4.99, with proceeds going to Send a Cow.

Guy Watson

Untamed nature

We have had a week enveloped in a haze of dandelion fluff. Finely-haired, parachuted seed borne aloft on summer updrafts, they swirl in the gentle breeze almost indefinitely, before settling in drifts. Irritating if that is in your tea or up a nostril and perhaps irritating for neighbouring conventional famers with their orderly, weed-free fields. Perhaps we should be concerned about the farming adage “one year’s seeding brings seven years’ weeding”. I suspect there might be some local tut-tutting about the unruly chaos of organic farming. Twenty years ago I might have worried. In my middle years I find myself almost celebrating it as Devon’s version of herds of migrating wildebeest; long may there be some semblance of untamed nature in our lives.

Meanwhile, back on the ground, the season is getting underway. The weeds are under control, we are up to date with the planting and are already harvesting leafy crops like spinach, cabbage, lettuce and rocket. With only an inch of rain in two months, the busiest man on the farm is Watery Tim, our irrigation man.

We finished our carrots two weeks ago and, due to the partial failure of our French crop, expected to have a break for a few weeks until the new crop starts as bunches on 7th June. In the meantime we were approached by a grower near Inverness who leaves his carrots in the ground all winter covered by a thick blanket of straw. Not only does this keep the frost out, it also delays the warming of the soil in spring and delays regrowth. Added to the cooling effect of being further north, once washed this is producing remarkably good carrots.

Guy Watson