Wednesday 16 May 2012

This Week At Farm Direct......

We're out collecting wild veggies this week and we think you'll love the selection that we have available.

Wild veggies provide a natural solution to the prolonged hungry gap that has been brought about by a rather arctic April and May.

With our stored onions nearing their end, wild onions stems are a great alternative, while in place of spinach, try our sea beet - it is a little saltier and has an even higher iron content.

Our fresh seaweeds (sadly neglected in our diet) offer a wealth of flavour, with virtually no carbon footprint and are flabbergastingly good for you.

On our farms, the first bunched beetroot from wild fields is now ready (albeit in limited quantities), and we are cutting the young leaves off our fennel to add an anice-zing to your soups and salads.

The unpredictable weather is still playing havoc with the planting of next season's veg - seedlings keep getting washed away and with the top soil 'porrage-like', we have to wait for a prolonged dry spell before we can get drilling again.

The first of this year's asparagus (last week) was a bit nobbly and dark - Tony tells us that this is due to slow growth at the start of the season and the asparagus should be a lot greener this week. We have reduced the price of the single and double bunches as an olive branch if you were disappointed with last week's pick.

Our wild veggies forager, Miles Lavers, has also been using nettles to brew 'Cornish Stinger', a clear refreshing beer that is also gluten free. Miles picks his nettles from an organic farm, ensuring no pesticides have been used near them. Try a bottle of stinger for £2.99 this week, or if you fancy a go at making it yourself here's the recipe.

And finally, with spawning season now over, we can expect a greater range of white fish this week. Our fleet have changed gear, dropping the monkfish nets in favour of the smaller white fish nets. With white fish currently at a premium, prices are high, but that should change over the next few weeks. Keep an eye on our fresh fish section to see what we have - it will be updated as the boats land.

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Foraged Foods From The Cornish Coast

Our forager, Miles Lavers, has spent the week collecting foods from the shore, moors, pastures and lanes along the Cornish coast. Try his:
Kombu - A sea veg that accounts or the trending 'umami' flavour in Asian cuisine. It's great mixed with rice, noodles or in a stir fry.
Sea Beet - A seasonal, iron rich, alternative to spinach.
Rock Samphire - A friend of fish, gammon and egg, this zingy treat has 30x more vit C. than an orange and is even cited in Shakespeare's King Lear.
Wild Onion - Somewhere between wild garlic and spring onion, you can use the leaves in salads, soup or even pesto.
Sargassum - An invasive seaweed, imported on the back of pacific oysters. It takes oxygen out of rock-pools, suffocating fish so we need to eat it all up. Miles (pictured) says it is "ridiculously good for you"!

Thursday 10 May 2012

Matthews Blog - When It Rains!

 Over the past month the rooks have started to move away from the cereal fields and are beginning to cause a few problems at Wildfields.
To begin with they were hunting out freshly drilled seed within a day or so of planting. As soon as the wind was calm enough crop covers were applied to try and keep them out. They then started following the drill up the field, removing the sunflower and bean seeds nearly as fast as they were going into the soil. In some places they have even started punching holes in the crop covers to get to the seed.

When they are not feeding they sit in the trees looking at the pea crop like a vulture waiting for its prey to become weak, patiently waiting until the pods are full of succulent peas.

The much needed April showers arrived right on cue, the intermittent showers at the beginning of the month had enough drying time between them to enable most of the backlog of planting, caused by the dry weather in March to be dealt with. Parsnips, broad beans, shallots, parsley, celery, rocket, radish, french beans, cabbage, lettuce, beetroot and calabrese have all made their way into the soil just as the sky darkened, I look back at that busy weekend satisfied that 90% of the planting made it in before the heavy rains came.

Since then the heavy rain has been much more consistent and no planting or drilling has taken place for the past two weeks.

Last week I returned from a sunny few days on the south coast to find that some parts of the farm had been under water as large parts of the county experienced flooding. My celery had been completely covered and now looks a little yellow but I am hopeful it will recover. Roy has been busy digging trenches and pumping water out of the potatoes (a complete role reversal from last year). Once again we have a backlog of planting with more plants due next week.

The two plots of carrots that were drilled in February and March are looking well after a good old-fashioned hand weed to remove the established mayweed and grass, unfortunately because of the weather the third drilling planned for April was missed. As soon as I get chance I will drill two lots and try and stagger them by covering one with fleece.

The runner beans sown in modules have now reached 40cm in height and are in desperate need of transplanting outside, I think I will give it one more week and then hope we don’t get any more frosts.

The early garlic is looking well; with the first harvest of large green garlic expected in early June. I am hopeful that a return to warmer weather at the end of May will help to push the main storage crop on to a decent size.

On the down side the weather has not been kind to the French beans, the first drilling was a bit of a gamble at the end of February and although they germinated well under fleece they have now stood still and are gradually being picked off by slugs. The second drilling has failed to germinate due to the colder wet weather and will probably have to be re-drilled.

The first broad beans are now full of bloom and are regularly visited by bumble bees.

On the harvesting front spring cabbage, leeks and rhubarb are still doing well with the later responding well to the rain.
The beetroot in the polytunnels are nearly ready but were set back slightly as the floodwater moved sideways leaving the soil more like porridge for a couple of days.

The long range forecast is predicting longer spells of dry weather for June so as soon as possible we will be planting and drilling again, making the most of the soil moisture while we have it!!!

This Week At Farm Direct....

At last, the first asparagus of the season is now ready to pick - a welcome fig leaf over the barren bareness of the annual hungry gap!

The cold & rainy weather has meant the asparagus is starting quite late this year, and this being the first week, availability is limited. So best be quick, because it will all go. We have kept the same prices as last year, so it is excellent value (2 for £5) - and it will be super fresh too.

To compliment the asparagus, we have some organic baby eggs (from young hens) that we need to find a home for, and Trealy Farm's beef pastrami makes a welcome return too.

So, sit next to the radiator, close your eyes, dunk your asparagus in a baby egg, and pretend summer is nearly here!

And another seasonal bonus - we have sorrel in for the first time - highly recommended by Hugh F-W, and fiendishly hard to get hold of!

Flooding has caused us lots of problems this year, washing away our radish and cucumber plants, decimating our French beans and delaying our celery and new potato harvest. So if availability seems sporadic, or if there are veggie substitutions in your order, it will because we get to Thursday & Friday and realise that some crops just can't be picked.

Fortunately our spring salad leaves (which are undercover in poly-tunnels) have survived and are flourishing in these conditions after a warm winter (in case you forgot!).

This week we have two new lettuces - can can, which is frilly and green and lollo bionda, which is very frilly and green. See if you can spot the difference!

On the way out, our over-wintered crops are coming to an end - spinach from Wild Fields has now been ploughed back into the ground, while our organic spinach and chards will only be around for a week or two.

And finally, a spring tide (part of the fortnighly lunar cycle, when the waters are higher than average and the fish further away) means we only have two boats out tomorrow. There is expected to be plenty of mackerel and smooth hound fillets available as well as ray wings, monkfish and crab. Keep an eye on our fresh fish section for the latest updates.

Fresh Essex Asparagus.... No Starch In Sight!

They say that home-grown asparagus has a taste superior to others. That's because freshness really does make a difference. With a high natural sugar content, freshly harvested asparagus quickly starts converting its sugar into starch - spears quickly lose their snap, moisture and sweetness.
Our asparagus is cut on Thursday afternoon, before arriving on Friday morning. We're not sure how others do it, but were fairly confident that you won't find fresher that that!

Sorrel: The Long Forgotten Taste of Spring

Once a common ingredient in soups, stews and salads, sorrel has somewhat fallen out of favour in modern times. Such a shame says Hugh FW in Friday's Guardian, it's, "startlingly, puckeringly sour and lemony, but with a wonderful lightness: it tastes green, it tastes of spring". Pair it with oily fish, sprinkle of classic egg dishes or simply stir it into a new potato salad. Hugh has been championing sorrel since this piece in 2008, hopefully it will now start to catch on!
Try our 75g packs, the perfect way to try sorrel for the first time.

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Smooth Hound, Is It The New Monkfish?

This week Shokoh is using smooth hound fillets, to make our first ever Indian inspired 'bycatch' fish pie. This is why we think you should be eating 'byactch':

1. Bycatch is ethical
: A bycatch is a fish that has been caught unintentionally, while trying to catch other fish (in this case sole and white fish). The bycatch (which often amounts to over half of what has been caught) is typically thrown back, dead. We think this is wasteful and unethical.

2. Bycatch is tasty: Bycatch is not a reflection on the quality of the fish, far from it, rather its status is down to food trends and market price. For example, 20 years ago no fisherman in Britain would dream of landing monkfish, it was a worthless byctach. Up goes the price of prawns and Britain needs a substitute with a firm flesh. Monkfish fills in the gap and it is now one of the most expensive fish caught by our Cornish fleet. Smooth hound is a tasty firm white fish - a perfect substitute for cod.

3. Bycatch is Cheap: The low demand for bycatch means that the price likewise remains low, we can pass this saving on to you.... Monkfish £28/kg, Smooth Hound £8.50/kg!

Try Shokohs 'bycatch' fish pie this week and tell us what you think.