Here at The Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm we’ve been lucky with our sprouting broccoli this year, thanks to our mild East Anglian climate. Across the country most sprouting broccoli has been wiped out by the cold weather but ours has survived and is starting to crop.
Sprouting broccoli is especially welcome now, as we approach the hungry gap, that difficult time somewhere between March and May when the winter crops are almost exhausted, but it is too early for early summer crops, such as broad beans and peas. This time next year The Oak Tree Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Schemewill be supplying vegetables to twenty or so local households, so it is vital to fill the hungry gap, to make sure that everyone eats well.
Our secondhand polytunnels offer one solution, they are more useful for late winter/early spring crops than they are for summer crops. Our winter polytunnels will provide us with fresh salad leaves, early spring cabbages, spinach and a host of other greens.
But there is a more traditional solution to the problem of the hungry gap. Miraculously, just at the moment when the garden harvest slows, the hedgerows start to burst into leaf, and much of this is both edible and good. As your body tells you it is tired of winter cabbage, spring nettles begin to appear for a delicious soup, packed with nutrients. When you can’t face yet another nearly bolted leek, try a salad containing young dandelion and hawthorn buds.
Arm yourself with a copy of Richard Mabey’s guide Food for Free, and if you are feeling particularly enthusiastic, get Roger Phillip’s Wild Food too for its fantastic colour photos, and head for wild ground. Our CSA is planning a wild food walk together this year so we’ll be well prepared this time next year. Joanne Brannan
Photo: green lane at Oak Tree Farm