Red kale and reading the weather

I think that because people can’t go out and eat, they’re doing a lot more home cooking, and that’s exactly what the veg and meat boxes are geared towards, writes grower Andy Hayllor.

At the moment on our farm in south Devon, we’re picking red kale, caulis and Savoy cabbage. They cope fairly well with the wet weather, with the main issue being it brings out the slugs and causes a bit of pest damage at the fringes of the crops. They seem to come from the grass margins at the edges of fields, which we maintain to help prevent soil runoff. The margins are home to various wildlife, both useful and not!

We will have Savoy cabbage available right the way through to spring; it’s a really robust crop and well suited to our mild and wet climate in the South West. Other areas in the UK struggle to harvest it as it doesn’t like frost, which is another reason it grows well in the south.

The red kale is a curly variety called Redbor, and I think it makes a nice mix of colours in the veg boxes alongside the black kale (Cavolo Nero) and the green curly kale. I found the variety in the garden of a neighbour who had been growing it for several years, and as people always like something different, I decided to give it a go. We’re always looking for new things to try and stretch the boundaries – sweet potatoes are one possibility, and I’m sure they’d go down well.

Andy Hayllor
Andy Hayllor grows a wide variety of potatoes.

Potatoes are actually my biggest crop, with the red variety Alouette set to arrive in boxes in the next week. I like the challenge of growing them, as they are one of the most susceptible to changes in the weather, and nothing beats the feeling of seeing a cracking crop and knowing you got it right.

This year we grew 25 per cent more of most things in response to a huge increase in demand for Riverford’s veg boxes. We’ve had a good growing season, so we could extend the season for things like Calabrese, but it has been a bit of a challenge; it’s surprising how much extra effort and labour goes into those extra crops.

As a mixed farm, looking after organic livestock and chickens is a big part of my week, and demand on the meat side has also gone through the roof. I think that because people can’t go out and eat, they’re doing a lot more home cooking, and that’s exactly what the veg and meat boxes are geared towards.

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