VegNews 12th September- Autumnal salad bags

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News this week by Joe at the Cultivate farm:

Well, golly, what a turn in the weather hey! Almost overnight it seems we’ve moved from a rip-roaring summer into Autumn. A few things at the farm slowed up this week: the tomatoes and courgettes in particular producing more modest harvests as compared to previous weeks. One’s relationship with courgettes is that old classic psychology – sick of picking grotesque amounts, but nonetheless left a little indignant when they actually do slow up…

In contrast, the salads have really come on recently, for which we’re very thankful. The weekend brought the first decent bit of rain we have had for a good while and the drop in temperatures seems to be more amenable to their nature. Indeed, the hot, dry summer we’ve had – though there’s no complaints about it! – has made salad production in general a little bit fussy this season. The lettuce heads have been rather temperamental, heading up either unexpectedly, a bit wonkily, or not at all and running straight to seed instead. Our successions of mixed leaves have all suffered from the dry heat too, giving a much-reduced cropping period and leaving production gaps between successions. Worst of all perhaps, is that this affected not only the quantity but also the quality of the product, with a reduced fridge-life. Apologies to any customers who felt hard done by in this respect!

For this reason, we felt more than compensated this week for the lack of courgettes by a nice and easy, greater-than-expected pick of mixed leaves. The increased moisture gives a fuller, crunchier leaf and moderates any bitterness, allowing more subtle flavours to appear. This week, for the first time since Spring really, I am properly proud of the salad coming from the Cultivate farm. In it goes a mix of six lettuce varieties, chards for colour (and the last handful of nasturtium flowers), and herbs for added flavour: parsley, coriander, dill and – my favourite – chervil.

And we’re not even onto winter brassica leaves yet, successions of which are currently on their way. They’ll add a completely new dimension again to the look, taste and smell of the salad. Overall, or when it comes to salad bags at least… bring on winter I say!

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