After a month of picking sweetcorn and tomatillos on our farm in France, I am back in Devon and wondering why. It’s still raining but everyone seems remarkably cheery and no-one seems to have missed me; slightly disturbing to the ego but I’ll put it down to my management skills. You all seem to be buying a lot of veg though, which is great. Could it be down to failing gardens and allotments? We know over half of you grow some of your own and this normally contributes to a sales slump around the same time that our courgettes and runner beans are ready.
A lot of the sun loving summer crops have failed (most of the sweetcorn, pumpkins and squash), or drastically underperformed (spinach, chard and salad leaves). On a more positive note, the carrots and often fickle parsnips have germinated and established well in the wet. However, potatoes continue to be a disaster. Potato blight, caused by the aggressive fungal pathogen Phytophthora infestans and brought on by persistent damp, has wiped out all but the most resistant variety, Valor. To avoid spores infecting tubers by being washed down diseased leaves, we have been forced to mow off the foliage early. Potatoes are an expensive crop to grow and in order to give our blighted growers some return, we have decided to grade and wash the small potatoes (as long as they cook and eat well) and include them in the boxes over the winter. I am hoping that provided you don’t have to wash and peel marble-like spuds, you will be happy to roast, boil and mash them with their skins on. Let us know. For the next few weeks we will continue to have the wonderful salad potato Charlotte in the boxes, so no need to fret just yet.
Overall, we have planted our autumn and winter veg almost to schedule and most crops are coming on well. So, with the exception of potatoes and squash, the outlook for the winter boxes is looking good. The summer of 2012 will go down as the worst in any grower’s memory, certainly in the West. It has cost us and many of our growers dear, but we will survive and no-one will starve.