September News

There's a chill in the air, heavy dew in the mornings and with it comes the first of the leeks, cauliflowers, calabrese, Harlequin squash and apples. Autumn is coming. But don't worry, we still have plenty of tasty summer produce including cucumbers, tomatoes, french beans, courgettes and sweetcorn. 

We've just completed our onion harvest - this was a mammoth effort involving two community help days and lots of long hours putting onions into crates. But we made it! And this year's crop is now in the polytunnel curing nicely before being stored away for winter. You can read all about our onions, one of the staples of our box scheme, in Joe's piece below. 

As the evenings start to draw in, our attention is turning towards preparation for the winter. We have lots of baby salads in the seedhouse ready to be planted into the polytunnels for the winter. This will be keeping us busy over the next few weeks. We are also still going full steam ahead with weeding - currently pulling charlock (a wild mustard) from our Hungry Gap kale crop. 


Break time recipes

We have a cooking rota for our staff break times - lunches are almost always vegan, include lots of seasonal produce and are very tasty as we have some great cooks in our team. We are going to start sharing some of our seasonal recipes on our newsletter and social media so do keep a look out and let us know what you think! First up, Harry's delicious sweetcorn chowder inspired by Anna Jones and using potatoes and sweetcorn straight from the farm. 

Sweetcorn Chowder (inspired by Anna Jones)

an onion or leek, finely chopped
2 floury potatoes, cubed (our Orla potatoes are perfect!) 
3 corn on the cobs, kernals removed
juice of half a lemon
1 small tub creme fraiche or Oatly vegan creme fraiche
a bunch of coriander
2-3 cloves garlic
salt and pepper

1) Fry the leek or onion and garlic in some oil for 10 mins until soft.
2) Add the potatoes, corn, 500 ml stock, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
3) Simmer until the potatoes are soft.
4) Mix in the creme fraiche and half the coriander.
5) Use the remaining coriander as a garnish and serve with a boiled egg (optional) 

Onions: vegetable of the month

Allium cepa

This month's star vegetable is the humble onion, not so glamorous despite being a staple ingredient in cuisines from all four corners of the world.  At Shillingford we aim to have our own onions available for as long as is feasibly possible, with regards to the local climate, acreage, workload and storage facilities, which usually means a steady supply from around the beginning of May through until the end of January.  This is done by having two plantings – an overwintered one planted out in October, along with fellow alliums garlic and spring onions, and then a spring planting in April, which this year saw us plant around 140,000 onions and shallots over two warm, sunny spring days. 

This year we have Matador shallots, Red Spark (red!) onions and Hylander and Hytec for the maincrop of standard onions.  Onions are quite hard to keep weed free as they don’t provide much shade as they grow, so it is important to stay on top of weeding to give them the best chance of growing healthily and bulbing up properly.  Mike goes through them a few times when they are still small with the mechanical weeder on the tractor, and we then mob-hoe (see last month's newsletter!) the gaps in between the plants twice during the first few weeks.  Unfortunately this year our red onions were seriously affected by the onion fly, a previously unseen pest in our fields, and as a result we have had a very poor yield, so get them while you can on our online shop or at the farmers market!  Hopefully it was a one-off attack.

The mammoth work of harvesting started with the shallots in early August and finished yesterday, a month later with the last of the Hylanders being taken into one of our polytunnels. The late August warmth and sunshine helped to cure them to allow them to store for longer, and us growers were ably assisted by various kind volunteers at different times.  If you’re interested in helping us out on these larger jobs, usually organised fairly last-minute depending on the weather, then sign up to our volunteer mailing list by dropping us an email at You will get occasional emails inviting you to help out.  The squash are coming along nicely and spare hands are always welcome to help get them in before the first frosts hit!

Onion Bhajis

75g gram flour
2tsp cumin Seeds
1tsp ground Coriander
1tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mixed spice
4tbsp water
100g onion, coarsley grated
25g potato, coarsley grated
5 tbsp oil

1) Mix together the flour, cumin, coriander, turmeric, salt and mixed spice.
2) Stir in water and mix to a smooth batter. Add potato and onion. 
3) Heat oil in a heavy frying pan and drop spoonfuls of mixture in.
4) Cook until golden on all sides, remove and drain before serving!