• Planting fennel

May News

May news from the Farm

- It's slim pickings at the moment as we are now fully in the Hungry Gap season. We are harvesting Hungry Gap kale, spring greens, swiss chard, rhubarb, salads, leeks, green garlic, tundra cabbage and moss parsley. But excitingly, the first peas, broad beans and carrots are not far off! And you can also enjoy some of the treats of this time of year including leek scapes (see below).

- Our first epic planting session of 2019 got off to a good start - we got over 26,000 onions in the ground and the conditions couldn't have been better. They went in just before the glorious sunshine we had over the Easter weekend and have now enjoyed a good drop of rain too. The polytunnels are also filling up with tomatoes, aubergines, beans, cucumbers, early courgettes and fennel. And early plantings of lettuce, beetroot, celeriac, kale and hispi cabbages have all been planted outside. In May we will be planting courgettes, Brussel Sprouts, Kalettes and squash.

- We are also excited to see many ladybirds around the farm at the moment. Most of our overwintered chard and perpetual spinach plants are now bolting out in the fields, completing their lifecycle as they flower and eventually go to seed. Whilst harvesting the remaining leaves, we have noticed colonies of black bean aphids on the odd plant, sucking the sap from the sweet, succulent new growth. We are not worried because it is healthy to have some aphids present in order to provide food for their predators such as ladybirds and their larvae. There are already many ladybirds gathering, mating and laying clusters of orange/yellow eggs right by the aphid colonies. They do this to guarantee their young a food source as soon as they hatch. They will hatch within 3 to 7 days and then over about 3 weeks will consume up to 300 aphids before entering the pupae stage and ultimately transforming into fully formed ladybirds. The adults will continue to consume up to 50 aphids a day over their remaining lifespan. There can be as many as 6 generations in a year so as you can imagine we are very happy to see the ladybirds, knowing we are building up a healthy population for the coming season. We have also seen many hoverflies and attached to the underside of some leaves their larvae in its pupae stage. The larvae of certain species of hoverfly also feed upon aphids so again, it’s great to see this activity. On an organic farm we are striving to replicate nature as best we can, nurturing a well-balanced, biodiverse system and so these insects, both the “pests” such as aphids and their predators are all vital in maintaining this equilibrium.  

Harry Neve, Grower

Vegetable of the month

This month it's all about the alliums! And we couldn't decide which one to showcase in our May newsletter so we've chosen two crops: green garlic and our hungry gap special, leek scapes. 

Green Garlic (Allium sativum)

One of the best flavours of spring, green garlic is slightly milder and richer than mature garlic, and goes well with other spring time crops. You'll find them in your boxes and at our Farmers Market in Exeter over the next few weeks. It looks a bit like a leek but the smell will give away the difference! It is delicious fried up with spring greens or added to some broad bean hummus in much the same way that you would use bulb garlic. Slice finely, and be sure to use both the white and green parts.

Green garlic or wet garlic are young garlic before the cloves have formed. We have two varieties at Shillingford Organics: Vallelado and Messidor. These are both softneck varieties. They were planted in November through a black plastic mulch and have been growing well throughout the winter and spring. We will harvest most of them now as green garlic, and leave a few to mature into bulb garlic. 

Unfortunately garlic is susceptible to rust, a fungal infection signified by a collection of orange-yellowish flecks on the leaves, and rust can be made worse in damp conditions such as those that we have here in the South West. Our garlic is suffering from rust at the moment - the crop is still perfectly edible but you may need to remove an outer leaf or cut away an affected section. 

Chloe Blackmore, Grower

Leek Scapes (Allium porrum)

After being sown in early spring last year and then harvested continuously since August, our leeks have one of the longest lifespans on the farm. All good things must come to an end however, and the remaining ones in the field are going to seed, sending up a stem with flower on top, known as a scape.  Although a bed of flowering leeks can be quite a display, the stems that form at this time of year are perfectly edible and provide something a bit different for the kitchen at this otherwise relatively scarce time for vegetables.  We harvest our scapes by hand, which provides some welcome relief in harvesting as it doesn’t require any bending over on our part!  While they may resemble asparagus they are clearly still an allium once it comes to eating them; a quick search online returns many different ways of cooking, from dicing them to leaving them whole, from roasting to frying to even just eating them raw.  Personally I like to keep it simple; coat in oil, salt and pepper and roast for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the scape, which should render them nice and tender.  For those who aren’t usually a fan of alliums, try sprinkling on some sugar to take the edge off.  Available in May at the Exeter Farmers market every Thursday and on our online shop, while stocks last!

Joe Ratford, Grower

Shillingford Organics Farm School

On Sunday 28th April, we celebrated 3 years of Shillingford Organics Farm School growing with the community. Children and adults enjoyed harvesting the last of the cauliflower and red cabbage crop and learnt about the cycle of two of our best crops by seeing the flowers blossoming and the seed pods forming on the plant stalks. Our next Community event on the 2nd June is all about herbs, for details and booking please click here.

Farm School Growing from the Ground up summer educational groups starts 3rd June 2019 for children 3-11 and their adults/ carers. Very limited spaces available, for booking and details please visit our website.