One of our basic principles is that we supply to our members seasonal local veg grown on site. In most cases this means we harvest just before our members pick up from us but we also use some traditional storage methods to allow us to supply a wider range of veg when possible.
Most people assume the time of year we have least veg is the winter but actually this isn’t the case. Many plants happily stay in the ground over winter and grow all be it sometimes slowly. We can also store things like potatoes, garlic, onions and pumpkins for months if kept cool but protected from frost which we do in the barn protected by hay bails and old duvets.
When we get to Spring everything starts growing again, this is fabulous as we can start off all our new plants for the summer but it also means many of the things which grow over winter flower and set seed which means they stop being useful for food.
All this means that the time when veg is least available, called the hungry gap, is between spring and summer. In our first couple of years the weather was good to us and we didn’t have that much space between when the winter veg finished and the summer veg started. However last year and this we have had some warm weather followed by colder weather which means the winter veg was triggered to flower by the warm weather but colder weather has stopped the summer veg growing as fast. This April we had at least one frost every week which means the hot weather plants have to be protected and will grow slower than if it stayed warm.
While there are plants that would have been traditionally harvested to fill the gap many of them are not grown as commercial crops in the same way. We are looking to put in some perennials such as rhubarb for the coming years and to grow mushrooms but both these will take a while to get going. If you have access to some ground where native plants grow, often as weeds, then you can harvest many young fresh leaves which are often high in minerals these include young nettles (pick with gloves and purée or cook to remove the stings), dandelions, sorrel, hedge garlic, chives and even some hedgerow leaves.