Riverford Wicked Leeks

zen pickers & marauding cows

Friday 21st February 2014

Despite the deluge, everyone is happy enough apart from the chickens. If it is to rain for eight weeks with barely a pause, it might as well be now when the days are shortest and not much is happening in our fields. On the whole our standing crops are bearing up well and there is little to be gained from cultivating or planting before March.

As you wash the last traces of our fields from your leeks, spare a thought for our pickers. It has been mercifully warm, but eight hours in a windswept field with ten pounds of mud clinging to each boot and the rain trickling down your neck day after day would break most mortals. I have never been down a mine or on a deep-sea trawler, but I reckon they are the only professions that could compete with winter veg picking for harshness of conditions. Most people just can’t take it, but there seems to be something in the makeup of a small minority that can shrug off such hardship; those who stick with it tend to be a pretty Zen bunch; perhaps they rise to a higher level of consciousness, who knows.

With the winter half gone we are taking stock, in the barns and the fields, and recalculating whether we will make it to spring. Spuds and onions are fine, right on plan but carrots will be short (they never really recovered from a dry summer and were more affected by carrot root fly than planned). In the fields the mild weather has brought leeks, kale, cabbages and cauliflower ahead of schedule; great for now but leading to potential shortages in March and April. The situation is not helped by a marauding herd of cows that broke into our spring greens one weekend. Not believing their luck they chomped through half a million or so before being detected, leaving a sizeable hole in our plans for your kitchens. We are hoping for a good crop of purple sprouting broccoli to fill the gap. Depending on temperatures we will pick the fields every five to ten days until the spears become too small for viable picking. My guess is that this year, with greens in short supply, we will be scouring the fields that would normally have been turned over to the sheep.

Guy Watson