As we head into the last period of the Hungry Gap, we are enjoying somewhat of a glut of sugar snap peas and the broad beans are just beginning to fill their pods. We have usually grown mangetout here at Barcombe; sugar snaps are a first for us this year and we’re very happy with them! Whilst mangetouts are flat, sugar snaps swell up and become much crunchier and juicier. They also don’t get fibrous like mangetouts tend to if they’ve been picked too late. They make a fantastic raw snack, being very sweet and satisfying in texture, and also suit being cooked gently in a sauce or roasted in oil to caramelise that sweetness.
 
We’re going to have a very good supply of broad beans for the next few weeks. The indoor crop has been harvested and the outdoor beans are just about firming up nicely. Broad beans are an excellent source of protein and are so versatile to cook with, as whole beans in pastas, risottos, and all types of sauces, or mashed, blitzed or pureed into dips, spreads, or vegetable patties, and can hold their own against the strong flavours of herbs, lemon, and tangy cheeses. 
 
Our Salad Packs, which vary seasonally, really come into their own at this time of year. Alongside a selection of different lettuces - red and green salanovas, red baby gem and taller romaine types - we grow rocket and red streaks for mustardy pepperiness, bull’s blood which has a flavour not unlike spinach, and a selection of more unusual leaves: orache, horn of plenty, giant goosefoot, and golden purslane to name just a few. These leaves add different levels of saltiness, bitterness and aromatic, floral and herby flavours. There’s a lot of thought that goes into the perfect salad blend! 
 
The three beds of indoor-grown carrots are finally coming to an end. Amongst the earlier Hungry Gap crops, bunched carrots have offered sweet and vibrant substance as one of the few root crops we grow here, beetroot being the other significant one. Bunched beets have just started appearing in the veg boxes. The roots are particularly sweet this time of year, and the lush tops must not be wasted! Beetroot are from the same family as spinach, and have a similar flavour although the larger leaves are more robust. Cook as you would any of your other favourite greens, or try wilting gently until very soft in butter with finely sliced red onion and a little garlic, adding raisins and toasted pine nuts - a classic, sumptuous side dish in both Italy and Spain.
 
Our indoor fennel is bulbing up nicely, and will feature in the boxes from now, for the next few weeks. When we harvest our fennel we leave on some of the fronds, which you can use like a herb, adding to salads, fish and pork seasonings, or to make fennel tea. Fennel pairs very well with citrus, so do try raw fennel and orange, and roasting or caramelising then dousing in lemon!
 
And from off the farm…
 
Stone fruits from Spain are just arriving, to much excitement. The smell of peaches, nectarines and apricots is so heady and transporting. That said, it won’t be long until our little indoor peach trees come good. Last year a late frost and a soggy summer made absolutely certain not a single peach would be enjoyed, but this year we hope to have plenty of peaches and figs!
 
Greens are only our own at the moment. We’ve had to take broccoli off the menu as it’s late in the season and the Spanish growers have been experiencing long spells of high temperatures, which is not what broccoli likes! Luckily we have plenty of homegrown beans, and we’ve had a good supply of flat beans which are a reliable likeness to the old fashioned favourite runner bean - minus the stringy bits!
 
Finally, we’re very excited to let you know that our old friend Metske at Bore Place in Kent is back up and running for the 2022 season. This month we will begin to offer his handsome lettuces and spinach, and soon he will also have kohlrabi and other greens for us. The next very important local supplier to begin again is Boathouse Farm, their new potatoes should be with us within six weeks.