It will always be a hard decision but sometimes it is better to accept an early loss, rather than taking the additional cost of planting and tending a crop that is unlikely to be worth harvesting.
A few of our growers, who didn’t prepare seedbeds early enough to lock in moisture from the spring, are now in desperate straits with tens of thousands of cabbages and broccoli waiting in their trays to be planted. At least they can be watered in the yard, as without rain or irrigation they would perish in their parched fields. Early August is the cut-off date for planting most winter crops; if they are not in the ground in the next week, even if we do get rain, they will not have time to grow the root, leaf and frame to support a decent crop.
As I write, we are debating whether to write off the remaining sweetcorn on my farm in the French Vendée. Up until ten days from harvest the crop looked great, but we have run out of water and with temperatures topping 40 degrees the plants are stressed, resulting in shrivelled kernels. It is impossible to tell which ones are affected without opening each cob and exposing them to further moisture loss. My apologies if you have had substandard cobs over the last few weeks. The commercial loss of one of our biggest crops will be catastrophic to the bank balance and the morale of the team who has tended it, but there is little point in harvesting them if they disappoint in the kitchen.
On the plus side, our peppers, aubergine and chillies are loving the heat; particularly the much anticipated Padron peppers. Just shallow fry in olive oil for five minutes, or until about a third of the skin is blistered, and serve as a snack generously sprinkled with salt. Depending on maturity, the strength of the sun, how well watered and maybe the alignment of the planets, somewhere between five and 20 per cent have a kick. Because ours are grown outside they tend to be tastier and hotter than those you might find in a supermarket, and the heat tends to build as the season progresses.
It’s also looking as if we will have up to double the expected yield of Padrons so we’ve been able to reduce the price. Hopefully, with your help, they might make up for what we have lost on the sweetcorn.