Strawberries are a traditional sight at the start of the UK summer and on a sunny Tuesday in mid-June we took a trip to our fields in Devon to take some photos of them being picked.
Strawberries will usually be ready from late May to mid July but the timing has to be right. If they have a little green on them they will be able to ripen in the punnet, but if they are too green they can’t. If they’re too red, they don’t keep for long, even in the fridge.
For something different, try our recipe for strawberries in balsamic vinegar and orange juice.
Broad beans are now in season and are grown on our farm in Devon. These beans were drilled in the autumn from dry beans and picked in mid June.
We sow some beans in Autumn and some in Spring. If the Winter is too cold, the Autumn sown crop doesn’t always survive and if it’s a wet spring, the later crop may drown.
In the early stages, the plants are covered with mesh to protect them from crows and other pests. After this, they don’t need a lot of attention.
Try cooking broad beans and adding them to roast artichokes and new potatoes. We’ve also got a recipe for broad bean and goat’s cheese omelette here.
We took a trip to one of the fields on our farm in Devon to see wet garlic being picked for the boxes.
We laid mulch across the field in September last year then planted the garlic in late October and early November. We used a mechanical dibber to punch little holes into the mulch, and then planted garlic through them.
The field workers pick the garlic in May and June by pulling it out of the ground. They then fold two of them over to make a bunch for the vegboxes.
An easy idea for wet garlic:
Add sliced wet garlic to roast new potatoes about 10 minutes before the end of cooking.
Try a recipe for roast wet garlic and goat’s cheese toast here.
In May 2005 on our farm in Devon, the Field Kitchen opened its doors for the first time. Half a decade, thousands of visitors and tonnes and tonnes of fresh veg later, and we have just celebrated its 5th birthday.
Our staff took some time out from work yesterday afternoon for tasters and drinks prepared by Sam, Jane and the team. Guy said a few words about how proud he is of the Field Kitchen, including its originality, quality and the happiness it has brought him, staff and visitors.
Here are a few photos of the celebrations:
turnips from the French farm
This is coming to you from our farm in the French Vendée, where the sky is always blue, the cows fat and the vegetables plump. Most of the crops planned to fill our hungry gap; lettuce, spinach, cabbage, beans, navets (baby bunched turnips) and courgettes have recovered from the March gales and are lapping up the sunshine.
Fennel has suffered from a minor plague of ragondin; giant, beaver-sized rodents with six inch whiskers and a particularly French appetite for anis,
the carrots have been overtaken by the ragondin
but the carrots are this year’s disaster. Just before the seedlings emerge we like to pass over the rows with a gas-powered flame weeder, to kill any weeds unlucky enough to germinate first. But the flame weeder broke and before we could replace it the carrots were up, accompanied by a rash of a weed known locally as ravenelle. I have never encountered such an aggressive plant; like docks on steroids it clambers on top of the crop then pushes its rasping, thistle-like leaves down, crushing any competition back into the ground. It made me think of Vinnie Jones defending a corner in a Wimbledon penalty area; a real bruiser of a weed. Even after mechanically removing all the weeds between the rows, progress on hands and knees up a row is down to 30 metres an hour. First loss is best loss, so this morning, despite the valiant efforts of the work force, we abandoned and ploughed in the first half the crop, rather than watch the ravenelle triumph and potentially set seed to plague us in years to come.
batavia lettuces the size of dinner plates
Back at home the dormancy of our old-season carrots can only be enforced for so long and we will run out before the end of this month. In previous years we have imported carrots from Spain or Italy to bridge the gap between seasons but the flavour is invariably poor and we had hoped to avoid them this year by growing some in France. With this plan foiled, we are planning a few weeks of carrot-free boxes in late May or early June. I have detected a little carrot fatigue recently so perhaps that will be a relief. Are carrots a ‘must have’ staple? Should we indulge you with some well-travelled bland imports from Southern Europe? Answers to email@example.com.
These pictures were taken when around 20 children from Landscove Primary School came to the farm to work on their ‘vegpatch’. It was three weeks since we had started the ‘Landscove Young Farmers Club’ and on Tuesday 6th of May it was time to return to the land after a long Easter holiday break.
Spring is a time of planting and that’s what we did. With the help of Headmaster Robin Smith and a group of willing parents, we planted the plants that were sown on our first meeting and other vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, courgettes, potatoes and onions.
This is the second year that we have undertaken the club and so far the level of interest is very good – a weekly supply of cake helps! The club is run by Darran McLane from Riverford with help from willing volunteer Jodie Giles, whom in her younger years attended Landscove. During the last week of school before the summer holidays begin, the harvest from the plot will contribute to the making of their school dinners. The intention of the club is:
- to improve the children’s knowledge of the growing cycle of vegetables
- to develop the practical skills needed for successful plant growing
- to understand the benefits of organic farming
- to know more about vegetable farming in the local community
- to know more about the vegetables that can be grown locally
- to inspire them to be more involved in growing things at home
- to improve their understanding of the relationship between field to plate.
Could it be the best job I have ever had?
Don’t let my boss know that. But when the sun is shining and the workers are out in the fields, I get out of the office and start shooting (I usually work in the office dealing with all things technical and creative on the computer). I must admit I am a bit of a fair weather photographer, mainly because that’s the time when I will get the best pictures. Early morning and before home time is when the light is at its best.
I arrive at the entrance to a field I have never been to before, where I was told I would find a small army picking spring onions or bunched onions (I haven’t quite worked out the difference yet) for the vegboxes. It’s actually a minute’s walk from Guy’s house… maybe he likes to look out of the window and see people working hard in the fields. I discover that just as I have arrived, everyone’s on a 20 minute break. Typical timing by me. I feel slightly bad, as this is really the first thing I am about to do for the day, and all these people have been working so hard and started so early that they need a break already.
It does however give me a bit of time to decide where to shoot from and to get some shots of people on their break – it is part of the working day after all. I try to work out what the stacks of boxes are at different points around the field, and why there are green leaves piled randomly along the rows. Crates are huddled together with more scattered alongside. It all clicks into place when the field workers return to their jobs. Some are pulling the onions, dead leafing while they go and putting them into crates. Some are sitting on crates bunching and elastic banding, and then chopping the tops off nice and neat with a flick of the wrist and a very sharp knife. Then back into the crates, piled at intervals, to be loaded onto the tractor and vanned
back to the farm and into the cold store to go into the boxes for the next day.
I ask how much they have to do, as the field is pretty big and progress looks painfully slow. “80 crates – we’ll be here all day.” comes the response. I am not wearing one, but I take my hat off to these guys and girls. They even have to carry on working when it rains. I am afraid I am yet to capture that shot.