Riverford Wicked Leeks

spring in the air

A wonderfully dry and sunny March has allowed us to plant about half the potatoes and the first lettuce, cabbage, carrots and spinach, all in perfect conditions. After the coldest winter many of us can remember, the remaining overwintered leeks, cauliflower, purple sprouting and spring greens are belatedly making the growth we expected of them in January. There should be plenty of homegrown greenery in the boxes this month, plus we are cutting the first lettuce and spinach from our farm in France.

Rhubarb is running late but catching up fast. With the help of mattocks, hoes and a rotavator we have done battle with the creeping buttercup, docks, couch grass and nettle that threaten to throttle all our perennial crops. For now at least the field is looking tidy again and we start picking the slender stalked Timperley Early rhubarb for the extras list this week; it will be in some boxes next. I love rhubarb in many ways: for its tart sweetness (giving it a place in both savoury and sweet dishes), its weird morphology, its perennial habit and its appearance during the hungry gap when so little else is available. Were you to dig up its colossal roots in December, you could be excused for thinking you had come upon a long-dead oak stump, but from this decaying, dung-loving hulk the shoots appear with a rude and extraordinary vigour every spring.     

Out in the woods we are busy harvesting wild garlic (or ransoms, as the leaves are known locally). There are recipes in the bag and more on our website. I have mused at length on wild harvesting after a vociferous argument with a friend about whether we were “raping nature” to fill our pockets. We could domesticate the crop as mankind has done for millennia; collecting seed, selecting for uniformity, clearing and ploughing a fresh bit of ground, then fighting to exclude weeds and maintain the unstable monoculture so abhorred by nature. We would be able to harvest with a machine and be sure of excluding weeds, but it would be less fun for our staff and by the time we considered the loss of diversity, use of fossil fuels and the release of CO2 from cultivated land, it would undoubtedly be worse for the environment. 

Guy Watson from Riverford in Devon