Welcome to our January newsletter where you can find out how our early spring crops are doing, learn about the health benefits of leeks which are our vegetable of the month, read some tips on storing vegetables at home, get up-to-date with our box scheme news, and find out details of our farm school winter party. As always, if you have any comments about our newsletter please do let us know.
Early spring crops
And here it is! A new year is upon us - and time now to set our sights firmly on the growing season ahead. The Winter Solstice is also behind us and as we welcome in the lengthening days, the early crop sowing will soon begin.
You may remember from our last batch of news that snap peas, broad beans and carrots were direct sown in to the polytunnels in late October. It is now time for ‘Round 2’ with more peas and carrots being sown under cover; broad beans direct sown outside. Our earliest lettuces will be sown in modules – brought on in the Seed House to be planted out (in March), mainly in outside beds that have been covered over winter to help kill off any perennial weeds and to protect the bare soil from the elements. The lettuce will then be kept under fleece until they get established. Spring greens and early calabrese will also be module sown.
Exciting times are also afoot amongst the perennial vegetables. We have decided to expand our rhubarb patch this year. So, this month we will be busy preparing ground to plant out around 200 new crowns. We will not work the soil, preferring instead to use a tried and tested method of mulching beds with cardboard to keep weeds down and adding lots of compost to give the crowns a boost. We will plant the crowns through the cardboard and finish with a thick layer of straw mulch. Then it’s the waiting game – in two seasons time they should be in full productive swing. Watch this space!
Claire Everett (Grower)
Vegetable of the month: Leek (Allium Porrum)
Leeks are receiving lots of media attention at the moment with a new campaign backed by the Leek Growers Association. Leeks are associated with many health benefits including lowering blood cholesterol, strengthening the respiratory system and stimulating the digestive system. Although leeks have been bred to have longer white stems, it is actually the green part that contains more of the important phytochemicals so don’t throw this away!
Leeks are one of our most important vegetables here at Shillingford Organics as they are available almost all year, able to survive the hardest of winters, and their subtle flavour makes them popular with our customers. We grow three varieties to ensure a continuous supply from August right through until the end of April: Megaton (early), Jolant (main variety), Bandit (late). We buy our leeks as plugs from Wessex Plants ready to plant out in mid-June. Leek planting is one of our biggest jobs so all the team get involved, taking turns on our tractor-mounted planter. Leeks like fertile, well-cultivated soil and follow brassica crops in our rotation. This ensures that there is still plenty of nutrient in the soil from the proceeding two years of green manure.
Top leeky tips:
- Cut the leek vertically all the way through for easy washing
- Leeks don’t do well over a high heat. Sweat them in oil or butter over a low heat for best results.
- Great in soups and stews, stirred through mashed potato or with anything cheesy!
The Landworkers Alliance (LWA) are crowdfunding
If you support the work that we do, please consider supporting the Landworkers Alliance. They represent small-scale producers and family farms like Shillingford Organics to promote a sustainable and healthy food system. They need to raise £25,000 quickly to influence, campaign and lobby on the post-Brexit Agriculture white paper which comes out in spring 2018. Shillingford Organics is a member this fantastic organisation which fights to ensure that small-scale, local food production has a future in our farming system. Please donate here if you can!
Farm School Winter Party: Sunday 21st January
Come and join our Farm School Winter Party on Sunday 21st January, 10am-3pm. This promises to be a wonderful celebration of winter with growing and cooking activities, natural crafts, storytelling and a puppet show. Booking is essential. Full details and booking information is available here.
Top tips for storing veg
Storing veg well is a great way of extending the season and avoiding crop wastage. At this time of year, many of our main crops are in storage: onions, squash and potatoes. We allow our pumpkins and squashes to ripen and cure on the plant. Once harvested they are placed into wooden crates and insulated with straw. This allows air to circulate but protects them from the frost. Depending on the variety, squash will store for up to 6 months. While we don’t have the ventilation equipment needed for long-term storage, we are also able to store onions through to January.
Here are some top tips for storing your vegetables at home in order to get the most from them:
- Do not store fruit and vegetables together. Some fruits give off high levels of ethylene (a ripening hormone) which can cause surrounding veg to ripen prematurely and spoil
- Squash, onions, potatoes and garlic are best stored in a cool, dry, dark place such as a cupboard or utility room. The fridge is too cold and can change the texture and flavour of these vegetables. Potatoes especially need to be kept in the dark – the light causes them to produce solanine, which is a natural toxin in potatoes that causes nausea.
- Most other veg are best kept in the fridge. Despite the problems with plastic, keeping leafy greens in a breathable plastic bag helps them stay fresh for longer. Making holes in the bag to allows it to breathe, and remember not to pack veg too tightly as this can cause them to deteriorate.
Reminders about our online shop and box scheme deliveries
Order Deadline Change Reminder
- The order deadline for Tuesdays is now Saturday, 10pm
- The order deadline for Thursdays and Fridays remains the same Tuesday, 1pm
We changed our dairy supplier back to Bruton Dairy, who also supply yoghurts from Brown Cow Organics. This is because we can now get a direct delivery. Although Ivy House Farm products were generally lovely, we did receive several complaints about the milk turning before the use by date, therefore a decision was taken to secure direct deliveries from Bruton Dairy.
Accounts and GoCardless
Some customers are still not aware they can buy any individual items to create bespoke orders, the minimum spend is £9.00, please make sure you confirm all orders before the deadline for your delivery day.
We would encourage anyone who hasn’t already done so to set up a GoCardless payment method. Accounts are reconciled each Wednesday, but payments are not taken from your bank until the following week, on occasion this has caused a little confusion, we are unable to control this as it is down to the way GoCardless and the banks communicate, we can only hope in time they will speed up this process.
If you have recently set up a GoCardless DD Mandate, please make sure you cancel any standing orders you have in place.
NB: GoCardless DD is not like a standard direct debit - when the payment run is performed on accounts an exact payment will be taken - no payment is taken if your account is in credit or with a zero balance.
Please ensure all empty trays are left out for collection, we are running short again, many thanks.
Kind regards Bridget
If you missed Martyn's new year message with reflections on 2017 and plans for 2018, you can read the full post here. Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year.