Riverford Wicked Leeks

bridging the gap + french lessons

As we approach the end of another growing year, the barns are starting to look empty and the fields bare. For the most part, both crops and customers have behaved according to plan so everything will be sold (bar the dodgy stuff, which the cows will enjoy). There are still plenty of leeks, greens, cauliflowers and purple sprouting broccoli to take us through to late April, and we will soon lift the last parsnips and swedes, just before they run to seed as temperatures rise. With the aid of refrigeration, stored carrots, celeriac and beetroot will run to early April and potatoes to May, but we have already finished our own onions (just as they started to sprout) and will have to use imports until our new crop starts in May.

Pigeons are copulating on the roof, a few birds are already nesting and I am impatient to start planting. A few potatoes are already in the ground and we will start planting cabbage and lettuce next week. None of the new season crops will be ready until mid-May and we don’t have much of a range of local produce until June. The next ten ‘hungry gap’ weeks, between the old and new season crops, are the most challenging in terms of keeping your boxes full and varied. As a co-op we have invested in stores to hold the previous crop in good condition, and use polytunnels and fleeces to bring new crops forward. We will make the most of the bridging crops like rhubarb and overwintered beans and garlic, but the boxes would get pretty dull and, despite much professed enthusiasm for local produce, we would lose many of you if we were dogmatic in our localism; this is the time when we lean most heavily on our growers in Spain and Italy. Our own farm in France (250 road miles distant, compared to 1000 and 1500 miles to Spain and Italy) will help reduce our carbon footprint though; we will cut the first lettuce (looking wonderful) in a fortnight and pull the first carrots (weedy but OK) in a month. We lost most of the spinach and chard to that cold snap last month; the locals told me it wouldn’t work but it is sometimes hard to separate wisdom from the pervasive risk-aversion of the French farmer.

Guy Watson