Tag Archives: padron peppers

Guy’s Newsletter: bumper crops, caterpillars & gleaners

We are picking the first of a fine crop of sweetcorn on our farm in France; six weeks ahead of the main UK crop and in time for your BBQs. Annoyingly you are in competition with the European corn borer, a moth which particularly favours maize and sweetcorn for nursing its young; the eggs hatch into a voracious caterpillar which feeds on the ripening cobs. The agri-tech solution would be to regularly spray insecticides, or to grow a GM variety where every cell of every plant continuously generates its own insecticide. Instead we use a minute wasp called Trichogramma which lays an egg inside the eggs of the corn borer, devouring the pest from within once it hatches. This is a well-proven system of biological control used for over 100 years, but it does rely on breeding and releasing enough wasps at just the right time; I suspect we were a little late. Where damage is not severe we will trim in the field; however the occasional cob is bound to slip through so please accept our apologies. One could say it is the price of insecticide-free food, but we’re happy to replace if you feel hard done by.

Nearby we have good crops of padron peppers and tomatillos, which will appear in most boxes over the summer. The padrons make a great snack when quickly pan-fried and salted; about one in five are mildly hot but it varies according to the plant, weather, maturity and where they are grown. Meanwhile tomatillos form the basis of many Mexican dishes, most particularly salsa verde; great with just about anything grilled or fried. There are some good recipes here.

At home we are coming to the end of a record breaking crop of broad beans; lots of spring sunshine helped the bees thoroughly pollinate the flowers which, coupled with just enough rain, has resulted in well-filled pods. We have upped the portions in your boxes (on us), and our veg men and ladies will carry some complimentary bags to give to those of you who are not beaned out, but even this will not shift the colossal harvest. According to the Old Testament’s Deuteronomic Code, we should leave part of the crop for widows, orphans and strangers; even after six years of austerity we don’t find many of them wandering the parish, so we have called in Gleaning Network UK to come and pick the remains for distribution to food banks and other charities.

Guy Watson

guy’s newsletter: good change & veg that bites back

April to June had me feasting on asparagus and wild garlic to the end. I will now happily forgo them until next spring as my attention moves to broad beans, artichokes, new potatoes, sugar snaps and marsh samphire. Five-a-day is easy with such a succession of delights, and I have quite lost interest in meat, cream and butter. Alcohol consumption may even have dropped a tad too. This is the time to avoid sauces, keep cooking to a minimum, cut back on the seasoning and let the vegetables do the talking; it is the time to celebrate what is in natural abundance.

I am uncomfortably aware that sounds like foodie drivel from the weekend glossies, but it doesn’t stop it being true. Even after 25 years, all this wonderful new season veg makes my heart quicken. The great thing about the deprivation of winter and the hungry gap is that it wards off the jading of the senses that results from too much of what we want. For me right now that is padron peppers from our farm in France. Quickly pan-fried in a little olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, they are the perfect way to start an evening, and even better with a beer. Somewhere between 5% and 10% should bite back with a little heat, but last year when I grew them outside they were too hot at times. This year I have grown some in a polytunnel and they are perhaps a little mild, for me at least, but then I like my chilli. Sadly in the spring rush most of the outside crop got buried in weeds, so they will be on the extras list only sporadically over the next three months.

July sees the fruits (or should I say veg) of a happy accident add to the seasonal abundance. Our marsh samphire grows on an organic farm on the Erme estuary that was partly flooded when a Napoleonic sea wall collapsed. A licence from Natural England allows us to carefully hand harvest 100kg a week, so now is the time to eat it until you can take no more. These crisp, salty spears are especially good steamed and served in a salad, with fish or a poached egg. In all it’s a good reminder that as with the seasons, change can be a very good thing.

Guy Watson

guy’s weekly newsletter: thunder in the vendée

After the hottest weather since 1976, it’s now pouring and the relief is palpable as the thirsty soil sucks in the welcome rain. We have a huge lake that fills up through the winter here on our farm in France, and we’ve been busy pumping, piping and spraying from it this summer. Giant hose reels pull rain guns (giant agricultural sprinklers) slowly across the fields night and day, but it is never as good as the real thing and westruggle to get around all the crops before the first lot start looking thirsty again. 

We will start picking sweetcorn in earnest this week. After battling with the weeds through a wet spring, our persistence has been rewarded with a pretty good crop. There are no badgers here but the ragondin (giant rodents the size of beavers) have acquired a taste for the ripening cobs. Introduced from South America for their pelts, they have become endemic and an occasional pest.

Meanwhile we have a fantastic crop of padron peppers, which will be on the extras list for the rest of the summer and will also appear in some of the boxes. These small green peppers are super trendy and ridiculously expensive in all those tapas bars that are taking over the country. They are best picked small and fried gently until the skin is blistered. Serve immediately with plenty of sea salt; most have a mild, wonderful flavour with about one in four delivering some moderate heat, and the occasional lurker with a real kick. They are great as a snack with a beer. 

Guy Watson

vote for your vegman!
Next month we gather with all of our local vegmen and vegladies for our annual head-scratching and navel-gazing about why we do what we do, and how we could do it better. There will be prizes for Vegman/Lady of the Year and the runners-up, so if you would like to put in a good word for yours, please email voteforyourvegman@www.riverford.co.uk/blog by 5th August.

If you’re looking for something to keep the kids occupied, you can download our free Riverford Big Worm Dig pack here: http://www.riverfordbigwormdig.com/

Kirsty’s cooking blog

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Time to crack open the Rioja, get your best pot of saffron out and cook some of our seasonal peppers, pretending you’re on a Costa del Somewhere Else.

Our long, wobbly romano peppers are great simply roasted in olive oil or stuffed with some of our Laverstoke mozzarella and pesto verde.

It doesn’t claim to be the most authentic paella in the world, but try a warming and tasty chicken & chorizo dish using red peppers to share on a colder evening with friends, or instead of Sunday lunch. It’s great for using up some runner beans too.

We’ve also got some new kids on the Riverford block in the form of our small and feisty padron peppers. Spanish tapas favourites (although they’ve been growing on our French farm in abundance), they’re easy to cook and will have you coming back for more. We made the traditional pimientos de padron, or try them stuffed with our High Weald sheep’s cheese, with a double dose of peppers in our red pepper and tomato dip.

A Julio Iglesias soundtrack is optional. Salud!