Riverford Wicked Leeks

getting floral in the mud

On and on it goes; the river is spilling out of its banks, springs are rising from unexpected places and once again the ground is sodden. We enjoyed a brief respite in the middle of November and managed to harvest some carrots. Conditions were borderline and they came out of the ground well caked - it will take a lot of work to get them clean enough to sell or store. A certain amount of soil helps the carrots to store, too much wet soil can deprive the roots of the oxygen they need to stay alive. Even a dormant root needs to breathe while sleeping the winter away.

As for the spuds, we must wait. We still have 80 acres in the ground but have decided to wait and pray. Aside from the diesel burned and mess made lifting all that earth, harvesting in wet conditions causes huge damage to the soil structure with its delicate flora and fauna. If it doesn’t dry up we may end up waiting to dig them in the spring, not necessarily a bad thing, provided they are well ridged and do not freeze.

Leeks, cabbage, sprouts, kale and cauliflower are running late but are arriving at our barns in increasing volumes. Harvesting is mostly done by hand. Wellies don’t get stuck like tractors, so our hardy field workers soldier on regardless. For the most part they remain cheery; some people just hate being indoors and seem able to shrug off conditions that would be considered intolerable by 99% of us. The view and their contact with nature must help. I used to be one of them but doubt that I could hack it now.

On another note; the pies, preserves, hams, bacon and tarts we sell are made by my food-crazed brother Ben, in the barn where my father once kept his pigs. Two years ago he started winning prizes for his mince pies and has been besieged by gourmet outlets wanting to sell them ever since. The answer is always no because they are handmade in small batches and we can’t make enough. There will be a few night shifts to get there but we are guessing you will buy 150,000 of them this year. They are very good, but they will run out.

Guy Watson