Riverford Wicked Leeks

devon weather

Monday 10th May 2010

A low pressure system has settled stubbornly over the British Isles bringing us lots of that gentle drizzle and leaden, grey sky that Devon does so well. Not much good if you are camping, but great for all the young plants that have gone out in the last month. They are enjoying a stress free start to life in the open field and are standing bolt upright in their rows and quickly sending out freshroots and shoots. Planting is almost over for the year; just a few more leeks, lettuce and brassicas and we can relax.

Jason who mans the irrigation pumps, pipes and rain guns, has been working night and day to keep everything growing and is now enjoying some pub time and lie-ins. Back in the old days, when I did it myself, I could not afford a decent pump. Breakdowns were so frequent that I would sometimes sleep down there, by the stream, on summer evenings waiting for the tell tale change in tone of the engine to wake me. Now the pump has an onboard computer to alert

us to any problems. Even so, the when a dry spell comes to an end, the rain brings welcome relief for the irrigators.


For the next two months it will be mainly salad potatoes in the box. Provided we get enough dry days to harvest, this week will see the end of the variety Junior. Through August you will then be getting mainly Charlotte, which is slow growing, but when it gets there, is the best salad potato we have ever grown. As they reach maturity their skins will set and you will find that they keep much better. New potatoes green quickly in the light, so it is a good idea to put them in an opaque bag as soon as they arrive.

The small turnips in the boxes over the next few weeks are a variety called Purpled Topped Milan. Don't associate them with the big green, swede-like, roots that come in the autumn and early winter. These young, sweet and tender turnips are considered a delicacy in France and Northern Italy, rather than the butt of Monty Pythonesque and Black Adder jokes. I never really got what was so funny about a turnip; evidence of the urban : rural divide perhaps.

If the tops are in good shape we will leave them on and they can be braised as greens with a little olive oil, garlic and squeeze of lemon. One of my all time favourite recipes is the wonderfully seasonal Navarin of Lamb; a stew made with new season lamb, turnips,carrots, peas or beans (recipes in Jane Grigson and many classic cook books or on our website). Our Jane has been serving a warm salad of carrot and turnip in the Field Kitchen, which has converted many a turnip hater. The recipe is overleaf.

Guy Watson

Please note there is no need to shell the sugar snap peas, they taste great eaten whole.