Thursday 26 April 2012

This Week At Farm Direct......

The 'hungry gap' begins in earnest this week - that traditional lull between the end of the winter crops and the start of the summer veg.

Our sprouting broccoli has now been ploughed back into the fields, making way for new summer crops (how we will will miss it!), while over-wintered spinach, chard and our kales will only be with us for a couple more weeks.

The uniquely mild winter has, however, meant that we have a plethora of salad leaves and accompaniments available in their stead - our organic radishes begin this week, as does the crispy cos lettuce and the chefs favourite red veined sorrel.

While our veg offering might be slightly leaner for the next few weeks, please stick with us. This is a true experience of British seasonal food and you wont catch us compensating with veg from the continent (like many box schemes).

Elsewhere on our farms, Andy is still reducing the size of his greedy flock of ducks. We have breasts for £5.49 2x legs for £3.99 and smoked breasts for £5.99

Now the season is in full swing, Jersey Royals have come down in price £1.99 for 500g. They are a little bigger than earlier in the month, but still have that distinct sweet, earthy flavour.

After several requests from customers, 'real' tomato ketchup from Stokes is back. You bacon sandwiches are once again complete! Try it for £2.60 this week.

And finally, a special thanks this week to Rohan from The Garden Classroom. Robert and Rohan have been on a whistle-stop tour of Islington primary schools talking about sustainable rearing, growing, catching and eating. Robert even got the kids munching on our Ripple Farm wild garlic!

Missing: April Asparagus

You may remember that this time last year we were well into asparagus season, but where is it now? Asparagus seasonality is heavily reliant on soil temperature; if the soil is not warm it wont grow. Due to the recent April showers, the soil temperature has stayed low and are asparagus is only 1-2" above ground. There is also still a risk of air frost (which makes the spears translucent and inedible) and until this passes we cannot begin to harvest.
Not to worry, the late start will prolong the season and with an upturn in weather, we should have asparagus by the second week of May.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

In defence of Tesco...

Hi Hisbe,

Re your article ("We've got Beef" -, I Love what you are setting out to do - I am an independent retailer in North London, trying hard to encourage hungry North Londoners to eat seasonal, locally produced food - we have been going 2.5 years, progressing promisingly, but business is tough, no doubt.

You deliver a pretty scathing broadside against Tesco, its executives, its shareholders, its cynical non-creation of jobs - but your message is weakened by one group you appear not to have the courage to attack and that is its customers. Only in your final sentence do I see that you mention this final critical Tesco stakeholder , and it seems to be the only sentence in your article that lacks bite, instead exhorting (pretty weakly if i may say so) us to "vote for business how it should be".

Consumer demand is the single biggest factor in whether businesses succeed, and I am heartened that Tesco have announced their first profits drop in over 20 years - and hope that this is due to reduced demand from customers who find propositions like our at farm direct more attractive than that of Tesco. But i still suspect that more customers pass through the doors of our local Tesco Express in a single hour than purchase from my business in an entire week!

I am not disheartened by this - I think i have a promising proposition for customers and am hopeful that I can make it succeed, but this is my entire focus - on attracting customers to my service and away from the supermarkets: I have no interest at all in bashing Tesco, simply in trying to take a slice of their sales, and in order to do that I need to make our proposition as attractive as possible.

I think you are jumping on an easy bandwagon by bashing Tesco & its CEO, whilst ignoring the queues of happy customers that everyday vote with their feet & wallets through their checkouts: they are the stakeholder at Tesco that you need to focus on.

Thursday 12 April 2012

3 Reasons why everyone should try cuttlefish in Springtime:

1, Cuttlefish flood the shores in springtime, dropping their eggs in the rocky nooks and crannies off our beaches. Shortly after, they die of fatigue - which is the reason why if you go for a spring walk along the beach you are more than likely to come across these exotic cephalopods washed up on the sand. So, waste not want not, put them to a good use and get them on your plate!

2, Britain is one of the most fertile sources of cuttlefish anywhere in the world, but because we don't know what it is, and because supermarkets find squid a smaller and prettier product to sell (even though it probably comes from Yemen and is air-freighted over here), the vast majority of it gets sold abroad to places such as Spain, Portugal and Asia.

3, Our cuttelfish is caught off the Cornish Coast, near Helston, using static nets checked each day - a very uninvasive and environmentally way to catch fish (compared to trawling).

So in summary: cuttlefish is delicious, local to our shores, highly seasonal in April and May, and much cheaper than squid, so try it out!

Wednesday 11 April 2012

This Week At Farm Direct....

We are very happy to see some rain again this week! Our shallots, calabrese broccoli and beetroot have all just been bedded and the Easter downpour will really give them a boost.

The first of our vibrant green cucumbers (both organic minis and non-organic biggies) are now ready, as are our organic cauliflowers and sorrel leaves from Kent.

Ripple Farm's over-wintered spring onions are popping up through the soil again, this week we have white, while red will be available in a week or two.

Roy's eagerly awaited new potatoes have started showing earlier than ever before! Expect to see them following asparagus at the end of the month.

We are now on to our second variety of white sprouting broccoli - the first variety, 'White Eye', has come and gone and Roy has now started picking 'White Star'. This is likely to be our last week of the white sprouting - try if you haven't already, it is very different from purple sprouting and much more like a slim-headed asparagus .

Likewise our wild garlic, which is now starting to flower, finishes this week. If you want to preserve its subtle garlic-like flavour why not make a batch of wild garlic pesto, it will keep for forever in the freezer!

We have the first of this year's cuttlefish - they only come to our shores once a year so wont be around for long. Willie also came in with a boat load of mackerel this morning, we have both 'headed and gutted' and fillets available.

And finally, after last weeks Easter service, we are back to our normal opening hours this week. Drop into the depot on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, while the Barn is open from 10-4 on Saturday.

Cuttlefish - Britain's Most Underrated Cephalopod

The tale of the cuttlefish is quite unique. Every April they come to our shores to lay their eggs before dying and washing up on our beaches. Despite their abundance, value and plethora of gastronomic uses, we discerning Brits have never really bothered with them - they all go to Spain, Portugal, Italy or East Asia.
If you like squid or octopus you will love cuttlefish - treat it in a similar way, cooking for a few seconds or very slowly until tender. It pairs with meat, tomatoes, red wine and of course is irresistible when deep fried.
Try cuttlefish this week, 450g for £5.99 or 900g for £11.99.

Matthew's Blog - Sunshine, Early Crops & Baloons

Temperatures for March were well above average for the time of year and crops that were drilled into moisture are starting to germinate. The extremely tasty new season potatoes that have been wrapped up in fleece and polythene to try and encourage early growth are just starting to push their leaves through the soils surface. Roy informs me that this is the earliest he has ever had the crop showing above ground.

We recorded a total of 20mm of rain during March, below average for the time of year. Visit '' to check out climate information for our region.

I hope you have all been enjoying the white sprouting; it truly is a delicious vegetable.
As Robert has mentioned it is a short season and the first variety White Eye has come and gone, Roy started picking White Star last week and hopefully a return to more seasonal temperatures may just prolong the season. Next season Roy will be adding the variety F1 Burbank to try and lengthen the harvest.

In the polytunnels where it consistently reached 40 oc last week, the early season beetroot are starting to grow; parsley and shallot transplants are ready to be set but are just being held back in anticipation of some welcome rain.

Whilst the sun was shining I took the opportunity to cultivate and hoe between the rows of garlic. The machine disturbs the weeds and buries the smaller ones whilst the bigger ones are left on the soil surface for the sun to shrivel. This process also loosens the top of the soil, which allows rain/irrigation water to find its way down to the plant roots rather then run off the beds that have been compacted over winter.

For one moment last Wednesday I thought I was going to share a champagne breakfast. The weather was warm and there was a light breeze, the hot air balloons were out in force and one looked like it was going to try and land on the farm. Thankfully it landed on a neighbours field and not our crops, I made do with my apple.

Shokoh's Menu - Sheppard's Pie & Carrot Cake

Shokoh is cooking a classic shepherd's pie for us this week (serving 2 or 4). For a veggie alternative, try Shokoh's lentil shepherd's pie, this proved very popular last time she made it and is slightly cheaper.
Cake-wise, Shokoh is baking carrot cake w/ cream cheese glaze.
Her sides this week are celeriac remoulade and beetroot salad. This is likely to be the last week to the beetroot (it gets a little woody at this time of year) so make the most of it while you can.
And of course Swedish Meatballs (serves 1 or 2).

Wednesday 4 April 2012

This Week At Farm Direct....

It's Easter week, so our service is 24 hours earlier than usual (Thursday to Saturday, not Friday to Sunday) - hence the Tuesday newsletter.

The first of our Gill Wing organic salads are now ready - we have baby spinach, 'bright lights' chard, butterhead lettuce, land cress and lambs lettuce from our Sussex poly-tunnels.

Last month's sunshine has given us two new varieties of tomatoes, beefsteak and golden plum. With high levels of light on the Isle of Wight, expect a particularly sweet picking this week.

We also have rape tips for the first time, over-wintered rainbow chard from Ripple Farm and jonnagold apples from Jacobs Farm. Hungry gap? What hungry gap!

If you've still not tried our nettles from Wild Fields or are struggling for inspiration, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has some great ideas on how to use them in Friday's Guardian.

Lent ends this Sunday, the traditional time to feast on the best of British seasonal produce. If you are looking for something to feed the family this bank holiday weekend, I highly recommend our excellent value organic lamb legs, whole grey mullet (caught today!) or an Organic Duck from Gill Wing Farm.

Please note, we are likely to be short on pork this week so please get your orders in as soon as possible to guarantee your preferred cut.

And finally, don't forget about our revised order deadlines for this week. Our deadline for orders with meat is now Thursday 7am (not Friday), while all bread needs to be ordered 24 hours in advance.

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Rape Tips - Italian Secrets From Dorset

For the first time this week we have rape tips, a green vegetable native to Puglia in Italy. Descending from the wild turnip, rape tip tastes somewhere in between turnip and broccoli, with a mustard kick. Treat your rape tips as you would broccoli, or follow the Italian lead of sautéing with garlic, pairing with pasta, or adding it to cooked beans. Rape tips also complement roast meats, especially pork - why not serve it with your roast this Easter Sunday?
Try rape tips this week for £1.89 for 250g.

Friday Fish - An Ethical Alternative To Sea Bass

If you're seeking a real seasonal treat this Good Friday, look no further then grey mullet from Chris Bean (newly famous from The Fisherman's Apprentice).
Grey mullet is a great alternative to sea bass, it is firm, bakes beautifully and is a fraction of the price. Try it whole or filleted (serves 2).
If you want to be super ethical, we also have wrasse this week. Wrasse is a bycatch of the grey mullet - much neglected, it recently came top of a blind taste test by London's sashimi chefs.

Shokoh's Menu - Iranian Stew & Citrus Chicken

In preparation for a turn in the weather this weekend, Shokoh is making stews and casseroles this week. Her Traditional Iranian Stew contains beef, aubergine, tomatoes, dry lemon and sour grape (serves 2 or 4), while her citrus chicken casserole is made with lemon, herbs, broad beans and cannellini beans (serves 2 or 4).
Serve her stew with almond and saffron aromatic rice .
Her side salads this week are spring coleslaw and Swedish potato salad, while her cake is lemon & thyme loaf.
And of course Swedish Meatballs (serves 1 or 2).