Riverford Wicked Leeks

confused crops - ed's story

This time last year our harvesters were fighting the snow and frost to get our winter veg in from the fields. The ground and the crops were frozen solid, and the team was having to unearth cabbages from the snow before they could even cut them. This year both the autumn and early winter have been incredibly mild in comparison. Temperatures were nudging -7˚C in Devon in December 2010; it’s now late December 2011, and the temperature has been an average of 8˚C in the past few days. Assistant Harvest Manager Ed Scott explains how this has impacted our winter crops.

spring greens

Spring greens are normally picked from January onwards, and while this is what we’re planning on doing this year, we could have been picking them since mid-November, as they were ready for harvesting back then. The only reason we haven’t is because so many other crops are so good we don’t have the manpower to get them off the field.


Spinach was actually picked later in the last year than this (last day was 24/11 in 2010, 9/11 in 2011). However last year’s stuff was looking very sorry for itself; lots of frost damage and it came in small and under yield at 2500kg/acre, compared to a target of 4000kg/acre. This year’s crop was all good, and came in at a massive 4350kg/acre – practically unheard of for late spinach!


Leeks are all looking exceptional too. Overwintered leeks tend to grow until October or so and then ‘hibernate’ (ie. stop growing) until growth starts again in February or March as the weather warms up, making them ready for harvesting in late March/early April. This year most of them have just kept on growing and could be picked now – up to four or five months early for some plantings.

purple sprouting broccoli

This crop has become so confused by the comparatively warm conditions that as well as maturing well ahead of schedule, a fair number of the plants are actually flowering. This should not be happening until February and they’ve been blooming through December, a full three months early.

what it all means

Our concern now is whether or not these crops will hold till we can pick them… this shouldn’t be a problem so long as it chills down a bit to keep a lid on things. I never thought I’d say this (especially after last year’s brutal winter), but bring on the snow and ice!

Ed Scott