At this time of year I usually keep a batch of rhubarb compote in the fridge to have for breakfast with granola and yoghurt. I sit on the back doorstep in the sunshine and watch the giant hound lie all over my newly planted herb beds, perhaps as some sort of protest at me going to work. This year we’ve not yet tried granola or herb squashing, and are dashing out for the morning walk between the torrents. Apparently the cold weather means people are liking our porridge. Try a dollop of the compote with it; you might feel a bit more like you’re in May, not February. Wear your best Sou’wester with your jim-jams if you’re determined to eat it al fresco.
We’ve got new season asparagus and rhubarb coming through in the vegboxes, but when the weather’s this wet we still feel like a bit of comfort food. There’s been much talk of roast dinners and cake on the menu chez Riverford staff (we talk a lot about food in the office, understandably). We’ve got two new recipes for our seasonal favourites that’ll give you a bit of a springtime cuddle in a bowl. If you’re up for a bit of baking on a wet Sunday afternoon, try our gingerbread with rhubarb and orange fool. For a quick midweek dinner, asparagus and bacon linguine fits the bill. Fifteen minutes max, from fridge to plate. Squashed herbs are optional.
Rhubarb is a perennial crop that comes back year after year; but after a time the crowns become tired and crowded out by weeds and yield consequently suffers. Some of our rhubarb has been in the ground for five years now and it is time to move on to pastures new.
Last week we started going through our field, digging up some of the older plants and splitting each one into individual crowns ready for replanting. Each plant can produce as many as six or seven crowns (although three or four is more usual) which can then be put back in the ground to grow on in their own right. These transplants won’t be harvested this year as we want them to build up energy and bulk in their root system for the years ahead. Don’t worry though – we still have plenty in the field to last through this year! It will hopefully be available to order in April.
Rhubarb is usually the first major planting job of the year for us: we planted some broad beans in mid-January and some salad in the tunnels in early February (which has now germinated), but it is not until March that we really get going. After working on the rhubarb we shall have a couple of weeks grace before getting our teeth into spinach and swiss chard followed by lettuce, summer brassicas… and suddenly the relative calm of winter is over.
Despite being widely used in desserts, rhubarb is technically a vegetable; it’s a member of the polygonaceae family and related to sorrel. It has suffered in recent years along with many of Britain’s traditional crops as supermarkets started selling out-of-season produce from around the world. Rhubarb is an excellent crop to grow in Britain, enjoying cool climates and suffering very few pests. At home, it will keep for a week in a plastic bag in the bottom of your fridge, and can still be used after this. It also packs a flavoursome punch at the table. As well as the obvious crumble, enjoy its vibrant colour by swirling stewed rhubarb through creamy yoghurt for a quick breakfast or dessert. Its sharpness works beautifully with meat and fish, too.
Order a bundle of rhubarb alongside your vegbox for delivery between 7-19th June and we’ll include a free pack of vanilla pods so you can try our Rhubarb and Vanilla Yoghurt Cake (recipe available on the website). The cake is really quick to make and is good served warm or cold.
no carrots in the boxes
The carrot bunches on our farm in France were badly beaten up by the weeds and then seriously assaulted by an atrocious spring. The end result is a much lower yield than we had hoped for, with each carrot creeping towards a harvestable size much later than expected. Our own season has also started a couple of weeks late; we had hoped that the first bunches would be ready for the boxes this week, but they just aren’t quite there yet. Rather than harvest when they are too small or jump to buying substandard southern European carrots, we have decided to leave carrots out of the boxes this week. We are confident that the bunches from France, combined with bunches from Graham and Chris, our growers in Norfolk, will satisfy the needs of the boxes next week. By the end of June, with a little rain and some more sunshine, the crop should be racing away, with ample to go round. You will then enjoy bunches in the boxes through to August, when we return to loose carrots for the autumn.
Some of the rhubarb is flowering making a stunning backdrop in the fields. There’s a lot of discussion on the cause of rhubarb flowering this year: the recent warm weather perhaps or the age of the plant – some of ours are around 4 years old. Add your two penny worth to the discussion…