Tag Archives: garlic

guy’s newsletter: closing the open-backed autumn

Finally, the last leaves on our oaks have turned. With persistent high pressure to the west bringing dry and cold wind from the north and east, temperatures have tumbled, closing that ‘open-backed’ (mild and growy) autumn. About time too; some of our winter crops are looking incredibly lush and forward. They need to slow down and prepare themselves for harder times. Ideally, temperatures drop slowly, allowing plants to toughen up gradually. So far the frosts have been mild; close to ideal in fact. How often does a farmer say that?

By the time you read this the last of our carrots and potatoes should be in store, which always brings on a warm and contented feeling. They are stored in wooden one-tonne boxes, stacked six high in a huge temperature controlled barn. The carrots will be good to the end of April and some of the more sleepy spud varieties, with careful management, can be kept until June. Most carrots are grown on very sandy land, left under a protective layer of straw between two layers of plastic. This makes them easier to wash, but they lose much of their flavour. Our carrots, grown slowly on loamy soils, might not be as pretty but they definitely taste better.

In France, having finished harvest for the year, we are busy planting garlic. For years we have grown this in Devon, with mixed success. After trying it on a small area in the Vendée last year we have been seduced by the larger bulbs and reduced fungal disease; the first fresh garlic will be in your boxes in May. The environmental impact of the transport of such a high value, labour intensive crop is tiny, so this seems justifiable to me. How about you?

Sowing winter broad beans is always a gamble. Too early and they become winter-proud (too big and susceptible to gales and hard frost); too late and they germinate slowly, making them susceptible to the weak pathogens endemic in the soil, as well as to the local crow population. This week feels about right, so we will make use of the dry weather to sow the over wintered crop for the boxes in June, to be followed by a spring sowing for July.

Guy Watson

Ed’s Farm Blog – Springing into inaction

wet garlicOur early season crops are usually planted in fields across the valley from us, as they are broadly southfacing and warm up quicker with well-drained soil to allow early planting. As these can’t be irrigated we rely on the usual April showers to water them for us. Last year the long dry spell actually meant that some of the lettuce got stressed, bolted, and we lost a fair amount of the crop. Not this year! Below average temperatures mean that the crops are growing more slowly than hoped, but there is certainly no lack of water.

Continual rainfall such as we are experiencing at present brings its own set of problems, however. At this time of year we would be frantically planting, fleeceing, brushweeding and hoeing our lettuce, spinach, summer greens and so on; but not now. The fields are simply too wet to cultivate and a short break in the weather is little help as they need a minimum of 2-3 days (sometimes more depending on the soil) to dry out enough to work.

Fortunately for our staff there has been plenty to do in the polytunnels: Manuring, putting up supports for tomatoes, and plenty of hand planting. But as this begins to draw to a close we can forsee a few quiet weeks ahead whilst we wait for the crops we have to come on and pray for a break in the weather.

On the up side our wet garlic is looking good; this was planted as individual cloves that we broke up from whole bulbs in late October and early November. The two varieties we grow are Germidor and Messidrome as they produce large cloves: and usually the larger the clove you plant, the larger the wet garlic you produce.

So a mixed spring so far. To quote the philosopher from Morecombe, “bring me sunshine…”

Farm news

Even such a cold start to May could not contain the spring rush to seed of the over-wintered crops, so the purple sprouting broccoli and spring greens have gone under the plough. This will be the last week for leeks and cauliflower; for once I will be sad to see them go. I never tire of leeks but could cauliflower reclaim our affections and become the new beetroot? Perhaps it is just that the extreme cold of January and February claimed so many that there weren’t enough left to tire of. You will not see another in your box until the autumn.

As the wild garlic from the woods runs to seed and gets shaded out by the trees above coming into leaf, we have started harvesting wet garlic from our fields. Bulbs were divided into cloves and planted out last November. If left to mature, by the end of June, each would swell to form a bulb which could be dried and stored. We don’t have the best climate for drying garlic so, ever since encountering it in an Andalucian market 15 years ago and being told it would make a “bueno tortilla”, I have been a fan of wet, or immature garlic. It makes its first appearance in the boxes this week; it resembles a small leek but if you crush a leaf the smell is a giveaway. Wet garlic has a milder flavour (somewhere between a salad onion and normal dried garlic) and can be eaten raw, sliced finely into salads, sprinkled over a stir-fry just before serving or used in a marinade or dressing. Wet garlic can also replace mature, dry garlic in your cooking but is best added later on and in larger quantities. Use the whole thing: immature bulb, shank, leaves and all.

News from France

Our French lettuces grew so well that they have all been cut and eaten before the first of the home crop is ready; testimony to all that Vendéean sunshine. Unfortunately our celery has joined the carrots as the second casualty crop by responding to the hardship of a cold wet spring by prematurely running to seed. This week we will be starting to pick turnips, kohlrabi and the first of the courgettes.

Guy Watson