Riverford Wicked Leeks

where are the calabrese?


Broccoli (or calabrese as growers and Italians call it) is normally a pretty easy crop, provided it has enough muck and water, and is one that our co-op members like growing. It is also one of the few green vegetables that almost all children like and quite a few of you have been asking "where is it?". This year we have had a catalogue of disasters, from the ravages of flea beetles and an early drought in June, followed by an insurmountable flush of weeds, which just kept re-rooting every time we thought we had killed them, aided by a very wet August. As a result there has been very little in the boxes so far.

All that is over and although we may have to fight through the weeds to pick it, there should be plenty from now until mid november, when frost and poor light brings the UK season to an end. There is then a bit of a break until our indigenous, and in my opinion infinitely superior version, purple sprouting broccoli, gets going in February through to April. The new season starts again in late June, provided we can persuade any of our farmers to grow it. Of course there is always broccoli available from Spain and its home country Italy to fill the gaps, but it tends to go yellow quickly and seldom tastes good.

Finished at last - well almost.

Last Saturday we had our first dinner in the field kitchen. There were the normal teething problems but generally it was a triumph. The acoustics need improving, so if there are any experts on dampening sound out there, I would appreciate some advice.

So finally at the end of the long climb I look up to find that we have this huge, elegant space, a fantastic chef and wonderful ingredients right outside our door, but no real plan of how we are going to share it all with our potential customers. We are restricted by our planning permission to only serving meals to people who have (a) booked and (b) come for some sort of farm or food based activity.

The plan, as far as it goes, is to use the rest of the season to experiment with various combinations of food, style of service and tours/activities to find out what works best. In addition to doing a tour, apple pressing and lunch every Saturday to the end of October, there will be an early evening tour (5pm) followed by supper on Thursday 30th September and Thursday 7th October. Provided it complies with the above planning conditions we would also be happy to talk to anyone interested in bringing a group at other times. We will develop an ongoing program as our successes and failures unfold. So far the only real problem, apart from the acoustics, seems to be how we are going to keep the price down whilst paying for the huge number of people required to prepare all those vegetables and serve. No doubt, like growing vegetables, we will get better at it.

To book or find out more about these events call Joanna on 01803 762720 or check the food and tours section of our website for further details and to book a tour.

Guy Watson