dreaming of sunflowers

After a brief interlude at the beginning of the month, Devon is back to its familiar sogginess. The autumn-sown broad beans, protected from local crows by crop covers, look happy enough, but the rest of the farm is drab and washed out. Whenever I enquire about leeks, kale, purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower or even swedes, the answer is always ‘should be ready in two or three weeks’ (I have been hearing this since July). Oh for a thumping great, solid savoy to congest the fridge and mock your attempts to eat in one meal...     

The tunnels continue to crop well. Despite low light levels, we are picking some lovely rocket, mustard, claytonia and dandelion greens. In France, with the benefit of some well-drained, sandy soil and marginally less rain, we are managing to keep up with our planting schedule. The first three plantings are in and covered with low level tunnels. Half the farm has heavier soil which cannot be reliably ploughed until May and can become impassable for machinery by late October. We have grown triticale for cattle feed but I would love to grow something we can sell to humans, preferably you. Melons and squash have been a limited success. Sunflowers are a possibility and there is a local organic co-op who will press the oil. We will trial a small area this year and if nothing else, a sea of those wonderful flowers will cheer us up in August.

The Vendée is famed for its beans, both fresh (haricot vert and demi sec), and dried (flageolet, coco and morgette). When staying there in my bus, I always have a bean stew on the go. As part of our mission to encourage the carnivores amongst us to eat less meat and find our protein in less land-hungry ways, we planted several fields for drying. The ones that survived bean seed fly maggots, produced a small crop which is now dried, sorted, bagged and available with your veg at £1.95 for 500g. I reckon they taste great and we are selling them for less than in our local market, but I can’t help noticing that if you don’t care where your beans come from, you could buy them for less. Should we grow them next year or bow to the global market and try more sunflowers?   

Guy Watson