Riverford Wicked Leeks

gearing up for winter

The clocks going back always signals the start of winter for me. It may be getting colder and darker, but it is also time to start enjoying soups, casseroles and other warming dishes. Root crop season has started on the farm. We have had a frost so the parsnips are tasting great (cold weather causes some of the starch in the root to convert to sugar and improves the flavour) and swede and celeriac are being lifted for the Seasons box. We are also keeping a close eye on the Brussels sprouts; inspecting them regularly for white fly and other pests to make sure we have plenty for Christmas.

Onions grow well on our farm and they have now all been lifted and are in store for the winter, along with beetroot. Beetroot is never as popular as we would hope, which is probably a combination of bad memories of crinkle cut slices steeped in vinegar and just not knowing what to do with the stuff. To boil beetroot, wash them gently and boil them unpeeled, leaving the root intact. Golf-ball sized beetroot will take up to 20 minutes and tennis-ball sized ones could take 40. You can then slip the beets out of their skins under a cold running tap. Otherwise, roasting brings out their earthy flavour: put them in a baking dish with about 5mm water, cover with foil and roast in a medium oven for about 45 minutes until tender.

If you’re not yet sold on beetroot, how about pumpkin soup? Our squash boxes have been a hit this year and contain a mix of at least three varieties. We still have some pumpkins and squash available if you’re feeling inspired to cook with them post-Halloween.

So the Christmas produce is under control but now we need to press on with preparations to make sure it gets to you whatever the weather. We hope the meteorological predictions are more accurate than old country signals like how many berries there are on the hedgerows (although there are a lot this year). We have pulled out the snow plough for the farm road and ordered new shovels and boots for the drivers so I think we are ready. You can pre-order your Christmas food now; make sure you don’t miss out!

Gordon Twigg, General Manager