As usual this year's weather is proving utterly different from last year, when the Beast From The East severely delayed planting of spring crops, resulting in reduced yields and some quality. This has left one or two of last year's crops in short supply as we approach the new harvest.
This spring the weather was kind to us in March when most of our crops are planted but the long cold and dry spell that followed didn't get all off to a flying start.
It was just the sort of weather that naked barley likes and it's looking great in the field. However the slow start left the quinoa seedlings open to attack from flea beetle and some fields had to be re-drilled. This will make for a late quinoa harvest but we still hope to get a reasonable crop. We wonder why the flea beetle wants to eat our quinoa and not the weed seedlings of fat hen and red shank growing among it.
So far the expanded trials of lentils and chick peas are looking promising. The YQ population wheat and other cereals are doing well as we develop our range of grains, flours and flaked cereals.
It's been a much better year for peas and beans but the last part of the growing season can bring the biggest challenges. Pulses like the red haricots, a variety of the Phaseolus family, are harvested much later than cereals and timing is critical to get them dry enough for harvest as the days shorten and the weather gets damper.
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A few years ago we were looking for a sweetner for some granola recipes, something UK produced and minimally processed. When our apple syrup order from Liberty Fields arrived we knew we were onto something special - we quickly added them to our short list of brilliant Guest Producers
We've launched ten pulses and grains from British farms as part of Holland & Barrett's transformation of their food range, available in their stores across the UK. It's a fantastic opportunity to make British-grown fava beans, carlin peas and quinoa, along with other pulses and cereals, available more widely and to support more diverse farming.
Down a warren of country lanes, not far from the Tamar Valley in Cornwall, is Julie Bailey's orchard Lower Trelabe, where she grows historic local varieties of apple and makes her delicious Apple Natural apple shreds, traditional fruit leathers that contain only the natural plant sugars.