On the few occasions I have found fresh borlotti beans (normally in London foodie farmers markets), I have been outraged by their price. Swallowing my farmer’s indignation, I once shelled out for a measly portion of pods and was bowled over by their flavour. Begrudgingly I accepted that foodies can be right, and determined to grow them myself.
Believing our climate borderline appropriate for the crop at best, I tried twice on our farm in France, only to be defeated by birds and Bean Seed Fly. However, slightly annoyingly, we have a fine crop of these fat speckled beans closer to home after all. Grown outdoors in Devon by farming co-op member Andy Hayllor and his accomplice Jeremy, they must be hand picked when half dry (‘demi-sec’) to get them at their best. If fully dry they can be machine harvested at a fraction of the cost, but they never taste as good. Our chefs in The Riverford Field Kitchen restaurant are proclaiming them the best crop of the year. Picking is slow and supplies limited, so they are in just some of the boxes but can be added to your order until frost or a good gale finishes them off. Fantastic in stews, salads, hummus or just boiled with herbs and garlic, and dressed with olive oil.
Every autumn I look forward to radicchio; raw in salads (try the recipe overleaf), grilled, braised or best of all melted into a risotto or pasta sauce. I can’t get enough of these bitter relatives of dandelions and endive, and consequently there are lots of recipes on our website. This year many of the heads are the size of footballs, weighing up to 1.5kg. We will use the smaller ones in the boxes but I’m hoping those who share my passion for their bitter, earthy flavour will order the thumpingly large heads as an extra item. They’ll keep for a month in the fridge and provide many meals for a bargain.