Riverford Wicked Leeks

theories of adolescence

Thursday 14th July 2011

A cool and cloudy month may not have been great for lying on the beach, but it’s been ideal for planting out. The last three weeks have seen 3,000,000 mollycoddled leeks, cabbages, cauliflower and purple sprouting broccoli plants torn from their humid nursery, separated from their siblings and fed through our planting machines. Once placed in a trench, wheels firm the soil behind, leaving them in regimented rows open to drying winds, pestilence and hungry rabbits.
These are the crops we’ll be harvesting for the boxes from September to next April, so they must get off to a good start. An occasionally drizzly grey sky makes for a stress-free transition to independence; dry enough for us to get on the ground and wet enough for the plants to send out new roots, so we’re happy even if the beach goers are not. However not everyone agrees with my philosophy on this formative period; in my early years as a grower I arrived at the nursery to find my plant order in a wilting pile in the sun. When I expressed my irritation to the plant raiser I was told, “It’s good for ‘em boy; they’ll never grow true without some ‘ardship”. I was glad not to have been his son or dog. He may have had a point for the older, more robust varieties, but most modern, highly bred vegetables just can’t take the abuse. 

Meanwhile, the rains of late have prevented us harvesting soft fruit such as strawberries and cherries, so apologies if you’ve been disappointed. Wet picking drastically reduces soft fruit shelf life, making them more vulnerable to both bruising and infection with rots caused by Botrytis fungi. It’s one of the gambles inherent in the natural, outdoor system we use here, and the irony is we’ll be cursing the rain in one field, while delighting in its arrival for thirsty crops elsewhere.

Guy Watson

Riverford at Womad festival, friday 29th-sunday 31st july
If you’re patching up your tent to head off to Womad in Wiltshire, come and visit us at the Taste the World stage, where festival artists prepare their favourite dishes with a side order of spontaneous music. We’ll have a pop-up organic café, you can plait a string of garlic to take home, and meet Guy who’ll be cooking (but not necessarily singing) at various times over the weekend.