By our produce manager Rosie
We’re midway through the Hungry Gap, which means we’re nearing the end of the first wave of Hungry Gap crops here at Barcombe - Hungry Gap Kale, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Radishes, and Wild Garlic to name a few - and the second wave is just beginning.
From now you will be biting into sweet little tunnel-grown carrots, juicy and delicate salad turnips, vibrant rhubarb, plump broad beans, crunchy peas, aromatic green garlic and spring onions, sweet and earthy bunches of beetroots, and a strong supply of our usual variety of luscious homegrown greens.
Green garlic is probably one of the more unusual things we grow at Barcombe. It's somewhat of a staple at this time of year, for us and many other market gardeners. Green garlic is immature garlic, grown from the single cloves of garlic bulbs harvested last year. If left unpicked the little plant would mature into a regular bulb, but at this stage it has a firm base, tender ‘leaf’ and is yet to form its papery shell. It’s an enormously versatile ingredient. Swap in for spring onions, or anywhere in place of regular garlic cloves. It’s much more mellow in flavour than mature garlic, so you can use it in bulkier quantities, alongside or even in the place of leeks, for example.
If you haven’t tried our bunches of salad turnips yet, I’m reluctant to say please do. We had almost forgotten how delicious they were and now I want to eat at least 12 kilos of them before they’re all gone by the beginning of June. I think the rest of the Barcombe team feel the same and so the competition will be decidedly stiff. Juicy, surprisingly sweet, and with just enough pepper to give them a savouriness…. Just yum! And to round off this short love letter to salad turnips, they are also beautiful: impossibly flourishing green tops, and white, slightly squat, spherical roots that could be made of porcelain.
If you’re not a rhubarb fan, try to jump on this bandwagon soon. There is something absurdly British about rhubarb. Obviously the name, but also the sturdy robustness, a certain lack of glamour, that we take it for a fruit and yet it is so lacking in sweetness it is almost not palatable, that it lends itself so wonderfully to arguably the least glamorous of puddings, the crumble. If ‘stewed rhubarb’ doesn’t get you going, rebrand it as a coulis, simmer with cardamom, a squeeze of orange, star anise, cinnamon, and the least amount of sugar you can handle - rhubarb is best served lip-smackingly tart. Quite a magnificent treat over yoghurt or porridge and takes moments to prepare.
A word on the crops we don’t grow here at Barcombe, that are currently featuring in our boxes…
One-by-one the winter crops are running out, whether indoor-stored or outwintered. It’s now almost impossible to get hold of UK grown swede and beetroot, the squash store is empty, and soon celeriac and parsnips will be gone until next autumn. We prioritise sourcing veg we can’t grow from other organic farms in Sussex, Kent and Surrey, before we have to look further afield. Yet transporting leafy greens (spinach, kales, spring greens) long distances doesn’t sit with our ethos of delivering field-fresh vegetables to our customers. These more delicate leaves will always be grown for you here at Barcombe, and you can tell their freshness from the deep colour in the leaves and a mouthful of flavour! However, to give you some more variety we continue to supply a small selection of produce that can tolerate travel: organic pointed cabbages from Spain, and the odd red and white cabbage, sometimes UK grown, but can come from the Netherlands.
Aubergines, peppers, courgettes, fennel, kohlrabi, broccoli (calabrese), and tomatoes are currently arriving from farms in Spain, Italy and sometimes France at this time of year. It will be a while yet before the British season begins for any of these crops but, we cannot live on radishes alone, so whilst we do our best to pack your boxes with as many local offerings as possible, you will be receiving some more Mediterranean veggies until we have our own. Similarly, it’s a pretty unexciting time of year for fruit in the UK. Some farms will begin offering strawberries soon, grown under cover, but you will have to wait until June for our small patch to ripen.
Our long-time favourite apple and pear supplier, Oakwood Farm in Robertsbridge, finally ran dry of stored fruit a few weeks ago. Our apples are still British but UK pears are finished for now. We will continue to supply small numbers of pears from predominantly South America, but if you want to eat more seasonally opt for European citrus and sit tight for the imminent arrival of some of the South’s finest berries and currants!
So whilst we're firmly in the (not really but) relatively empty belly of the Hungry Gap, we also live in a world where we can have pretty much whatever we want, whenever we want it. Please savour the imported treats from other organic farms across Europe and the world which we connect you with, as they do their bit to farm responsibly, keeping their soils and communities healthy. Meanwhile, we busy ourselves preparing the seeds and seedlings for the bounty of our peak season, and you can enjoy the more unusual but exciting delights of these funny few months because there is plenty to come! The broad beans are almost within munching distance...