The recent run of northeasterly winds has sent temperatures plummeting and brought growth for the year to an abrupt end. Fortunately, we managed to harvest the celeriac, the last big harvesting job of the year, in the nick of time, just before the first hard frost that would have damaged the roots.
For the first time in months we are actually a little short of fresh veg for the boxes. It will be at least six weeks before we see any significant new growth and in that time some crops like leeks can actually shrink, as they lose leaves to winter storms. At the point when growth stops for that period of hibernation, we need to have enough crops ready in the fields to see us through until late January; it all depends on the planting dates back in the summer. All our plans assume an “average year”, but as no two years are the same our plans are often thrown into disarray, leaving us desperately scratching around to fill the boxes. Generally crops had been running a little too forward, but the recent unusually cold weather has slowed things down, meaning we are on target.
Picking brussels sprouts by hand on a frosty morning is notoriously hard on the back and fingers. It is hard to match the cosmetic quality of conventional sprouts, protected with an armoury of pesticides, so we still pick selectively by hand, discarding the tatty ones in order to get a good sample. Sprout tops (the loose, tennis ball sized, mini cabbage-like, apical bud) were traditionally picked in November and December to encourage the development of juvenile sprouts higher up the stalk. They can sometimes provide good eating and, with the cold weather, seem to be sweeter than usual. We are putting some in the boxes. If you get them, treat them as baby cabbages; I think they are best boiled briefly in plenty of salted water.
Guy Watson from Riverford in Devon
deliveries between christmas and new year
We’re taking a break with no deliveries between Christmas and New Year, so stock up on all you need in Christmas week (veg-wise, you’ll get best value by going up a box size).