September 2021 Potato Harvest

The weather was fine for the 2021 Potato Harvest at Bennison Farm.

Lots of members came along to help bring in the potatoes and see the tractor in action!

Many hands made light of the work, and we were able to lay down a store of nearly three tonnes of tats. Plenty to keep us going through the winter, with several different varieties to add some diversity to our dishes.  The potatoes grown this year were Twinner, Heidi (the red fleshed potato), Sarpo Axona, Carolus and Alouette.   They even have a new home for the winter, in the form of an old lorry container.

We hope those of you who made it along had a good time – we certainly had one happy young member, who’s mum emailed us to say;

‘A wonderful morning that my 2 year old is still talking about!!! It was wonderful helping to harvest, seeing the tractor, and then best of all bring a few of these yummy spuds home. Thank you so very much’ – Abbie Cole

We’re already looking forward to next years harvest, and hope to see lots of you there!

Winter Salad

Mixed salad leaves are a mainstay of the winter veg shares at Bennison Farm. You may think of salads as a summer crop but many salad leaves are better suited to cool conditions as they run to seed very quickly in the hot weather and can suffer more pest damage such as flee beetle in the case of the brassica family.

The polytunnels provide them with protection from the elements and ensure high quality leaves. We sow at the end of the summer to plant in early October and harvest from November.

The salads will stay in the ground until they start to flower in early spring when they are taken out to make way for the first plants of the new season.

The types of leaves you can enjoy over the winter include Mizuna, Purple frills and Golden frills mustard, Tatsois, Lettuce, Endive, Bucks Horn Plantain and Winter Purslane.

Mizuna

Purslane Winter

Winter Purslane

Buckshorn Plantain

Bucks Horn Plantain

Purple Frills Mustard

Golden Frills Mustard

Tatsoi Information, Recipes and Facts

Tatsoi

Endive

News from the farm – December 2021

By the end of November we’re in a position to pass judgement on the the successes and failures of the growing season. The main crops are either in the store or if hardy enough, left in the ground waiting to be harvested, so by and large we can now see what we’ve got to play with over the winter.

This is where the principle of a ‘veg share’ is put into practice, as the crops are shared out between the members on our winter veg share plan.  We have to strike a balance between the quantities we give and how long we want the crop to last and this determines what you will get in your weekly veg share. Having finished the winter veg share plan the good news is we feel confident that we have enough to keep our members fed through the winter months.


The over riding feeling is that the 2021 season was a good one. On the whole the weather was in our favour. For once we had a reasonable amount of rain. The onions and Brussels sprouts went through the whole season watered only by the rain and are the best examples we’ve ever grown. We’re really pleased with our main crop carrots which seem to have evaded the worst of the carrot root fly – their nemesis – to give a lovely crop of perfect sized carrots which we hope will see us through until April. We’re equally happy with our beetroot and leeks which we will rely on as we head into the hungry gap in late spring. In spite of the rain there was enough sunshine to give us a healthy squash crop – we particular love the long stripy Delicata squash which for all you sweet potato fans is the best alternative we can grow here in the UK. Butternut, the most well know of the squash, also did really well and next year we’ll mainly grow these two as they are always the most reliable.


Of course it’s never perfect. Sadly neck rot has meant we’re losing a lot of our fantastic onion crop in the store. We think the thick necks and large amount of foliage meant the crop took longer than expected to cure and went into the store too early. Hopefully a few tweaks to our post harvest handling of the crop will ensure this a less of a problem next year. Celeriac were a wonderful size but around a third of the crop were affected by violet root rot which may have been exacerbated by damp conditions in that part of the field. Savoy cabbages are a little sparse after being hammered by slugs as young plants but this should be balanced out by other varieties we’ve planted.


The CSA model means that we don’t put all our eggs in one basket. We can’t expect every crop to be successful every year but by growing a range of types and varieties we insure there is always something to eat. Every year there are lessons to be learnt. The timing of our autumn crop this year was out, with some too early, some too late and some which we didn’t find time to plant. We’re determined next year to nail this and provide plenty of broccoli, cauliflower, salads and leafy greens next autumn which will help us save our winter crops for a bit longer. No doubt there will be new lessons to learn, which I will be sharing with you this time next year, but as 2021 draws to an end we can feel happy that we gave it our best shot and got some great results. Thanks so much to our great team of staff and volunteers who work so hard to bring us our weekly veg shares.

Recipes and facts – Parsley

Parsley has many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can provide important health benefits.

It is a particularly rich source of vitamin K. A single tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley provides more than 70% of the recommended daily intake.

Recipes

Parsley and caper salad

Tagliatelle with parsley and hazelnut pesto

Parsley and Caper Salad – from BBC Good Food website

  • small bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 lemon , juiced
  • 3 tbsp capers , drained and finely chopped
  • ½ shallot , finely chopped
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 200g cherry tomatoes , halved
  • 4 Little Gem lettuces , leaves separated

Finely chop the parsley stalks and roughly chop the leaves. Put the stalks into a large bowl and stir in the lemon juice, chopped capers and shallot. 

Whisk in the olive oil, season, then toss through the tomatoes along with the chopped parsley leaves and lettuce. Serve immediately.

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Tagliatelle with Parsley and Hazelnut Pesto – from Olive Magazine website

  • tagliatelle 350g
  • parsley 80g
  • toasted hazelnuts 100g
  • grated parmesan 50g
  • lemon 1

Cook 350g tagliatelle pasta following pack instructions.

Put 80g parsley, 100g toasted hazelnuts, 50g grated parmesan and zest and juice of 1 lemon into a food processor and whizz to a paste.

With the motor still running, gradually drizzle in 100ml olive oil, then season.

Drain the pasta, return to pan and stir in the pesto.

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Recipes and facts – Pak choi

A member of the cabbage family, it’s one of the highest nutritionally ranked vegetables, providing high amounts of more than 21 nutrients.

Even more brilliantly, as well as the usual benefits of cruciferous veg, pak choi boasts omega-3s, as well as the antioxidant mineral zinc, boosting immunity, anti-inflammatory processes and brain function.

Recipes

Sticky green stir fry with beef

Perfect pak choi

Sticky Green Stir-fry with Beef – from BBC Good Food website

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • sirloin steaks , trimmed of fat and thinly sliced
  • 1 head broccoli , cut into small florets
  • 2 garlic cloves , sliced
  • 300g sugar snap peas
  • 4 spring onions , thickly sliced
  • 3 pak choi , leaves separated and cut into quarters
  • 4 tbsp hoisin sauce

Heat the oil in a large wok or deep frying pan, then sizzle the beef strips for 3-4 mins until browned. Remove and set aside.

Toss the broccoli and garlic into the wok with a splash of water, then fry over a high heat for 4-5 mins until starting to soften.

Add the peas, spring onions and pak choi, then stir-fry for another 2-3 mins, then stir in the hoisin sauce and beef.

Heat through quickly, adding a splash of water if it seems a little dry. Great with noodles or rice.

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Perfect Pak Choi – from Delish.com

  • 1 tbsp. 
  • vegetable oil2 
  • garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2.5cm ginger, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks450 g 
  • baby pak choi, cut in quarters with core intact2 tsp. 
  • low-sodium soy sauce 1 tsp. 
  • toasted sesame oil, for serving (optional)1/2 tsp. 
  • toasted sesame seeds, for serving (optional)

Heat vegetable oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.

Add pak choi, soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons water. Cover and cook 1 minute, then remove lid and cook, stirring occasionally, until cores are tender and all liquid has evaporated.

Transfer to a serving dish, drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using.

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Recipes and facts – Lettuce

Lettuce is a leafy vegetable, famous for giving salads their base. There are multiple types of lettuce, and they all share the scientific name Lactuca sativa.

The nutritional content of lettuce varies across varieties. Almost all lettuces contain a significant amount of vitamin A, along with small amounts of vitamin C and iron.

Recipes

Teriyaki beef and lettuce cups

Lettuce soup

Teriyaki Beef and Lettuce Cups – from BBC Good Food website

  • 350g trimmed sirloin steak
  • 2 tbsp teriyaki sauce marinade, (we used Kikkoman teriyaki marinade)
  • 1⁄2 cucumber
  • 2 tbsp coriander , roughly chopped
  • juice 1⁄2 lime
  • 6 Little Gem lettuces leaves
  • 1 red chilli , deseeded and thinly sliced
  • 1⁄2 red onion , thinly sliced

Put the steak between two sheets of cling film and beat with a rolling pin until half its original thickness. Thinly slice the steak, then mix with the teriyaki marinade in a bowl. Leave to marinate for 5-10 mins.

Roughly dice the cucumber and mix with the chopped coriander and lime juice. Season with a little salt.

Heat a frying pan until very hot, then fry the steak slices for 1½-2½ mins for rare to medium, turning the slices halfway through.

Pile the cucumber mixture into the lettuce leaves, then top with the seared teriyaki beef, chilli and red onion.

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Lettuce Soup – from Delicious Magazine website

  • 1 round lettuce (about 350g)
  • 3 tbsp salted butter
  • 3 shallots, finely sliced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 400g frozen petits pois
  • 1.5 litres hot fresh vegetable stock
  • Small bunch fresh mint, leaves picked
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp caster sugar

Separate the lettuce leaves and wash thoroughly to remove any clinging grit.

Melt the butter in a large, deep saucepan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and gently fry, turning the heat down if necessary (you don’t want them to brown).

When the shallots are tender, chop the lettuce up a bit and stir it into the butter.

When the lettuce has wilted, add the peas, stock and mint leaves and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, season with salt, sugar and ground black pepper, then simmer for 7-10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and blend the soup using a stick blender.

Reheat gently, taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve the soup in big bowls. It’s best eaten straightaway, with warm buttered bread.

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Recipes and facts – Kale

Typically dark green in colour, kale is available in a variety of colours, including purple. The edges of the leaves are either flat or curly, it can be eaten raw or lightly cooked.

Recipes

Kale and quinoa burgers

Kale pesto

Kale and Quinoa Burgers – from BBC Good Food website

  • 140g quinoa
  • 500g hot vegetable stock
  • 100g kale , stalks removed, leaves roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion , finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves , crushed
  • 75g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 2 medium eggs , beaten
  • 50g sundried tomatoes , roughly chopped
  • 100g goat’s cheese , cut from a round log
  • green salad , to serve (optional)

For the pesto

  • ½ small pack basil , leaves only
  • ½ small pack parsley , leaves only
  • 2 garlic cloves , crushed
  • 50g pine nuts , toasted
  • 50g parmesan , grated
  • 150g olive oil
  • juice 1 lemon

Put the quinoa in a saucepan and pour over the hot stock. Simmer for 18-20 mins over a gentle heat until the grains have fluffed up and the liquid has disappeared. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the kale and simmer for 6-8 mins until cooked through. Drain, squeeze out any excess water and set aside.

Put 1 tbsp olive oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 mins until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 min more.

Tip the cooked quinoa into a bowl and add the kale, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, egg and sundried tomatoes. Season well and mix to combine. Set aside.

To make the pesto, put the basil, parsley, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan in a small food processor. Pulse, slowly pouring in the oil, until you have a thick pesto. Squeeze in the lemon juice to loosen, then set aside.

Gently heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a shallow frying pan. Using your hands, form the quinoa mixture into 8 round patties. Add to the frying pan and fry for 4-5 mins each side until crisp and golden.

Heat the grill to high and put a slice of goat’s cheese on top of each patty. Place under the grill to brown and melt the cheese slightly – this will take a matter of seconds, so keep an eye on them. Top each patty with a generous spoonful of pesto and serve with some fresh green leaves, if you like.

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Kale Pesto – from Olive Magazine website

  • kale 75g, chopped, tough stalks discarded
  • garlic ½ a clove, chopped
  • parmesan (or vegetarian alternative) 50g, finely grated
  • extra-virgin olive oil 3 tbsp, juiced
  • pine nuts 50g, toasted
  • lemon 1, zested and juiced

Put the kale into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, then add the garlic, parmesan, oil, pine nuts and lemon zest and juice, and whizz until smooth.

Add a splash of water to achieve a dressing-like consistency, and season.

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Recipes and facts – French Beans

Green beans are native to North, South, and Central America. Today, however, they grow all over the world.

While they may be low in calories, green beans contain many important nutrients that provide several health benefits. The legumes are full of antioxidants, including vitamin C, flavonols, quercetin, and kaemferol. 

Recipes

Green Bean Mac n Cheese

Sri Lankan Green Bean Curry

Green Bean Mac n Cheese – from BBC Good Food website

  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 3 tbsp wholemeal flour
  • 500ml milk
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 350g macaroni (or other pasta tubes)
  • 185g pack sliced runner beans
  • 220g pack fine green beans
  • 140g mature cheddar , half chopped, half grated
  • 25g pumpkin seeds
  • peppery salad (such as rocket & watercress), to serve (optional)

Put the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat, add the flour and stir well. Still stirring, slowly pour in a little of the milk and mix well until smooth. Add a little more milk, repeating until all the milk has been added and you have a smooth sauce. Stir in the nutmeg, season, then take off the heat while you cook the pasta.

Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the macaroni and boil for 8 mins. Add the runner beans and green beans, and boil for a further 3 mins.

Drain the pasta and the beans, and tip into a large gratin dish. Pour over the prepared sauce and tuck the chopped cheese in among the pasta, then top with the grated cheese and pumpkin seeds. Bake for 10-15 mins or until the top is bubbling and golden. Serve with a peppery salad, if you like.

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Sri Lankan Green Bean Curry – from Great British Chefs website

  • 250g of green beans, trimmed and cut into 5cm pieces
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 2 banana shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick, 5cm long
  • 1 tomato, small, diced
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves, plus extra to garnish
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 400ml of coconut milk, (1 tin)
  • salt
  • crispy shallots, to garnish

CURRY LEAF OIL (OPTIONAL)

  • 1 bunch of curry leaves
  • 50g of rapeseed oil

Begin by making the curry leaf oil, as this will take a few hours to strain.

Place the curry leaves and vegetable oil in a blender and blitz at a high speed for several minutes until the oil turns green. Pour the contents of the blender into a muslin cloth hung over a bowl and leave to strain.

Add a dash of vegetable oil to a saucepan and fry the shallots, garlic, chillies, cinnamon and sprig of curry leaves for 5 minutes until soft. Add the diced tomato and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the green beans, chilli flakes, cumin, turmeric and pepper and cook gently for 5 minutes. Pour in the coconut milk and simmer for a few more minutes. If you’d like a drier curry with a thicker sauce, simply add less coconut milk.

Season to taste, then transfer to a serving bowl. Top with crispy shallots, extra curry leaves (ideally fried in a little oil until crisp) and finish with a drizzle of the curry leaf oil.

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Recipes and facts – Fennel

Fennel has a pale bulb and long green stalks. It can grow almost anywhere. All parts of the fennel plant, including the bulb, stalk, leaves, and seeds, are edible. They add flavour to other foods.

To prepare fennel, cut the stalks off the bulb at the base where they sprout and slice the bulb vertically. Prepare the fennel leaves, stalks, and bulb in a variety of ways, including:

  • using the stalks as a soup base or stock
  • sautéing the leaves and stalks with onions for a quick and easy side
  • mixing sliced fennel with a variety of your favourite fresh vegetables for a light, crisp salad

Recipes

Sausage & fennel orecchiette

Marinated fennel and courgette salad with basil

Sausage & fennel orecchiette – BBC Good Food website

  • 1 leek, halved and finely sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, halved and finely sliced, fronds reserved
  • 250g long-stemmed broccoli, larger stalks finely sliced
  • 300g orecchiette or any short pasta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 sausages
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes

Boil a large pan of salted water, turn the heat down to medium, then add the leek, sliced fennel and broccoli, and simmer for 3 mins until tender. Lift the veg out of the water using a slotted spoon, drain and set aside. Keep the pan of water on the heat, add the orecchiette and cook for around 11 mins, or until tender but still retaining some bite.

Meanwhile, put a large frying pan over a high heat, add the olive oil and squeeze the sausagemeat out of the skins, tearing it into small pieces in the pan using a wooden spoon. Fry for 3-4 mins until golden brown and almost cooked, then add the garlic, fennel seeds and tomato purée, and fry for 30 seconds until aromatic. Add the blanched veg and grated carrot, and cook for another 4 mins. Tip in the tomatoes, bring to the boil, then simmer for around 4 mins until reduced slightly.

Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of pasta water, and toss the pasta in the pan with the sausage and tomato sauce, adding a splash of pasta water to loosen. Season and serve with the reserved fennel fronds scattered over the top.

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Marinated fennel and courgette salad with basil – Delicious Magazine website

  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 6 baby courgettes or 3 big ones
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 50ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt flakes
  • Basil leaves

Slice the fennel bulb as finely as you can (set the fronds aside), and spread out in a wide, non-metal dish.

Very finely slice courgettes (set any flowers aside and leave them whole or slice in half carefully if they’re big), then put them in the dish with the fennel.

Squeeze over the juice of both lemons and drizzle over 50ml extra-virgin olive oil. Season with sea salt flakes, then gently toss everything together and leave to marinate for 30-60 minutes.

To serve, transfer the veg to a serving platter (leaving any excess marinade behind), add the courgette flowers, a handful of basil leaves and the fennel fronds (or a few dill sprigs), then drizzle with a little more olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, then serve.

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Recipes and facts – Cucumber

Cucumbers are technically fruits, from the same family as watermelons and pumpkins, but most people consider them to be veggies.

A serving of cucumber (one-half a cup) is about 8 calories. They have small amounts of vitamin K and vitamin A and are about 95% water. They also have several phytonutrients (plant chemicals) called lignans.

All that water in cucumbers can help keep you hydrated. Plus, the fiber boost they give you helps you stay regular.

Recipes

Cucumber, pea and lettuce soup

Cucumber and mint raita

Cucumber, pea & lettuce soup – BBC Good Food website

  • 1 tsp rapeseed oil
  • small bunch spring onions , roughly chopped
  • 1 cucumber , roughly chopped
  • 1 large round lettuce , roughly chopped
  • 225g frozen peas
  • 4 tsp vegetable bouillon
  • 4 tbsp bio yogurt (optional)
  • 4 slices rye bread

Boil 1.4 litres water in a kettle.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and cook the spring onions for 5 mins, stirring frequently, or until softened.

Add the cucumber, lettuce and peas, then pour in the boiled water.

Stir in the bouillon, cover and simmer for 10 mins or until the vegetables are soft but still bright green.

Blitz the mixture with a hand blender until smooth. Serve hot or cold, topped with yogurt (if you like), with rye bread alongside.

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Cucumber and mint raita

  • 400g plain Greek yoghurt
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and stir well. Serve with your favourite curry or Indian dish.

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