Riverford Wicked Leeks

good change & veg that bites back

April to June had me feasting on asparagus and wild garlic to the end. I will now happily forgo them until next spring as my attention moves to broad beans, artichokes, new potatoes, sugar snaps and marsh samphire. Five-a-day is easy with such a succession of delights, and I have quite lost interest in meat, cream and butter. Alcohol consumption may even have dropped a tad too. This is the time to avoid sauces, keep cooking to a minimum, cut back on the seasoning and let the vegetables do the talking; it is the time to celebrate what is in natural abundance.

I am uncomfortably aware that sounds like foodie drivel from the weekend glossies, but it doesn’t stop it being true. Even after 25 years, all this wonderful new season veg makes my heart quicken. The great thing about the deprivation of winter and the hungry gap is that it wards off the jading of the senses that results from too much of what we want. For me right now that is padron peppers from our farm in France. Quickly pan-fried in a little olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, they are the perfect way to start an evening, and even better with a beer. Somewhere between 5% and 10% should bite back with a little heat, but last year when I grew them outside they were too hot at times. This year I have grown some in a polytunnel and they are perhaps a little mild, for me at least, but then I like my chilli. Sadly in the spring rush most of the outside crop got buried in weeds, so they will be on the extras list only sporadically over the next three months.

July sees the fruits (or should I say veg) of a happy accident add to the seasonal abundance. Our marsh samphire grows on an organic farm on the Erme estuary that was partly flooded when a Napoleonic sea wall collapsed. A licence from Natural England allows us to carefully hand harvest 100kg a week, so now is the time to eat it until you can take no more. These crisp, salty spears are especially good steamed and served in a salad, with fish or a poached egg. In all it’s a good reminder that as with the seasons, change can be a very good thing.

Guy Watson