January Recipes

Your January veg share is likely to include:

  • Winter salad
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Celeriac
  • Onions
  • Beetroot
  • Parsnips
  • Black radish
  • Cabbage
  • Cavalo Nero
  • Pak choi
  • Squash
  • Leeks

Recipes

Root veg rosti

Root Vegetable Stew

Root Veg Rosti – Waitrose Website

  • 150g maris piper potatoes, unpeeled, coarsely grated
  • 150g parsnips, unpeeled, coarsely grated
  • 150g carrot, unpeeled, coarsely grated
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp wholemeal flour
  • 3 tsp olive oil

Put the grated vegetables in a clean tea towel and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. In a bowl, mix with the thyme, onion, mustard, egg and flour. Season lightly and mix thoroughly.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C, gas mark 6. Heat 2 tsp oil in a non-stick pan. Shape the mixture into 8 patties and fry, in batches, for 4 minutes on each side, until crisp. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes.

Serve as a side dish with a main meal or with a poached egg for a filling lunch.

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Root Vegetable Stew – Good Housekeeping Website

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 300 g each parsnips, carrots and celeriac, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp. tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp. plain flour
  • 600 ml hot vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf for the dumplings
  • 100 g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 25 g vegetarian suet
  • 1/2 tbsp. each chopped dill and curly parsley
  • 2 tsp. creamed horseradish

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan) mark 4. Heat the oil in a hob-proof casserole and fry the onion for 10min until softened. Add vegetables and fry for 5min. Add garlic and cook for 1min.

Stir in the paprika, tomato purée and 1tbsp flour. Cook for 1min, then pour in stock – the vegetables should be just covered. Add the bay leaf. Cover the casserole and cook in the oven for 20min.

Sift the remaining flour, baking powder and ¼tsp salt into a large bowl. Stir in the suet, herbs, horseradish and about 75ml iced water to make a soft dough. Shape into eight balls and place on top of the stew. Cover and return to the oven for 15min. Remove lid and cook for 5min. Serve.

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A new place to grow

We’re excited this year to have our own heated propagating facilities. We’ve put up a new 30ft polytunnel and built a heated bench to give our early seedlings some warmth from below to help them on their way. It will make a big difference because until now we’ve had to buy our early plants from a nursery. It will save us money and give us more control over timings as previously delivery costs have meant we have to get lots delivered at the same time.

The first seeds were sown in early February – pak choi, salad turnips, spring cabbage, spinach, lettuce, fennel and mixed salad leaves. We’ve been really pleased with the results and our first plants are looking great. They’ve been taken off the heat to ‘harden off’ and will be planted in the polytunnels in the next few weeks. We’ve now sown the next batch to be planted outside in April – more of the same plus broccoli, kohl rabi, beetroot and chard.  We’ve also sown our summer polytunnel crops – tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. They need extra heat so will germinate in seed trays with their own little propagator before being potted on and moved to the heated bench.

Beyond the basic tunnel frame, we’ve been able to design the tunnel to our own requirements with insulation for the winter months and plenty of ventilation and shade for the summer. We’ve even invested in an automatic watering system to take the pressure off weekend watering in the summer months. It’s been a great winter project and along with our borehole another great asset for the farm, saving money and giving us that little bit more control over what we do.

Events at the farm 2023

We’re so pleased to be offering a selection of events at the farm hosted by our friends and supporters. Please see the table below for dates and details!

Date and Time Event TitleHostContact for booking and more details
12th March 2023
12noon-2pm
Explore the relationship between agricultural food crops & wild plantsMarley and Lorahttps://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/530415907257
6th May 2023
12noon-4pm
Chamomile HarvestMarley and Lorahttps://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/530429678447 
11th June
2023
10:15-11am
Family YogaSarah McCaskeyhttps://bookwhen.com/yourspace/e/ev-sqt8-20230611101500
11th June
2023
11:30-12:30
Yoga for GardenersSarah McCaskeyhttps://bookwhen.com/yourspace/e/ev-s4x0-20230611113000
25th June
2023
2:30-4:30pm
Kirtan – devotional singingSarah McCaskeyhttps://bookwhen.com/yourspace/e/ev-sfht-20230625143000
9th July
2023
10-11am
Wildlife Walk around the FarmChris and Judehttps://bookwhen.com/bennisonfarm/e/ev-sdum-20230709100000
6th August 2023
10am-12noon
Family Forest SchoolTim Evans and Floss PeacockTo book a place email Floss:
fpeecock@gmail.com
9th September 2023
10am-4pm
Potato HarvestDanny https://bookwhen.com/bennisonfarm

News from the farm – spring 2023

Starting all over again

I love this time of year when we transition from one growing season to the next. The slate is being wiped clean and we’re starting all over again.

Throughout the year I find myself listing all the things we’ll do differently next season and now is the time we can put those thoughts into action. There is of course no one right way of doing things. What works one year may fail the next. The weather is the biggest uncertainty, and whilst nature is our friend, it also presents a great many ever-changing challenges in terms of pest and diseases.  There is always something that wants to feast on our lovely veg!

Each year we begin again, learning from our mistakes. We’re forever tweaking our crop rotations and planting schedules, trying to optimise the system and get the most out of the land.  We can get two or three crops from some beds if we plan carefully.

There’s also a balance to be achieved when it comes to planting times. Plant too early and you have too much ready at the same time but plant too late and you can miss the boat entirely. We’ve been a bit late on sowing some of our root crop over the past couple of years, caused by our effort to create a less weedy seed bed to sow them into. This is risky as there is less time for crops to mature and little time to re-sow if something goes wrong. We’re going to try and bring sowing forward a bit this year to reduce the risk.

Pest and disease issues can also be mitigated with timing and rotation. We try to harvest turnips before the cabbage root fly take hold and try to avoid growing too much broccoli in the cabbage white caterpillar season.

This year we’ve changed our crop rotation to give more space between crops susceptible to violet root rot which has caused problems in our celeriac recently. We’re also going to be growing French marigolds in between our Brussels sprouts to try and deter the white fly which always seem to be a problem.

Each season there will be fine tuning and new ideas. It’s like a big puzzle with multiple solutions. It’s what keeps the whole thing interesting and whilst I know deep down that it’s unlikely to happen, I still can’t help striving for the perfect season, where we get it all right and everything goes our way!

Recipes and facts – Turnips

Turnips are a member of the same veg family as broccoli. They are high in nutrients and low in calories making them a healthy addition to a rounded diet.

Both the root and the greens of the turnip are delicious and nutritious.

It can be eaten raw, roasted, or sauteed.

Recipes

Asian turnip salad

Raw turnip salad

Braised turnips with greens

Asian Turnip Salad – from the Waitrose website

  • 1 red chilli, deseeded
  • ½ tsp grated fresh root ginger
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • ½ garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 3 medium turnips (about 400g), peeled
  • 100g watercress, tough stems discarded

Finely chop ¾ of the chilli and mix in a large bowl with the ginger, soy sauce, lime zest and juice, garlic, olive oil and coriander; set aside.

Cut the turnips into wafer-thin slices – a mandolin or the thinnest slicing blade of a food processor are useful here – and toss with the dressing. Quickly mix with the watercress and spread over a platter or divide between plates, spooning over the juices. Finely slice the remaining chilli and scatter over the top of the salad, with more coriander, if liked.

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Raw Turnip Salad – from Maria Ulashova’s website

  • 3 medium turnips, peeled and grated
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt to taste

Place the turnips, carrots, parsley and pumpkin seeds into a salad bowl. Add the lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and toss to combine.

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Braised Turnips with Greens – from Cooking Light.com

  • 6 small turnips with greens
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup unsalted vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cold butter
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Trim and peel turnips; reserve and chop the greens.

Halve turnips. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add turnips, cut side down;

cook 4 minutes or until golden.

Turn and add vegetable stock, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to medium-low.

Simmer until turnips are crisp-tender, 5 to 6 minutes.

Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, and add greens; cook until liquid reduces by three-fourths and thickens, about 6 minutes. Swirl in butter and honey.

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Green Onions – Recipes and Facts

The term green onion is usually used interchangeably with spring onion and scallion.

All are onions that don’t have a large bulb, either because they don’t grow that way or because they are harvested before the bulb forms.

Green onions deliver a lot of the flavor of mature bulb onions, with a little less of the bite. And the green leaves are edible, which offers some different nutrients from bulb onions.

Green onions are often eaten raw, but can also be roasted, grilled, or sauteed, whole or chopped. Use to garnish soups, salads, or dips, or to spice up tuna or chicken salad. You can also use a food processor and combine green onions, garlic, ginger, and olive oil to make a pesto-like sauce or spread that can be added to meat dishes or used on top of other vegetables.

Recipes

Tomato & onion salad

Tomato & onion salad – from the BBC Good Food website

  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 tomatoes, sliced
  • 1⁄2 cucumber, sliced (optional)
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp white malt vinegar
  • 1 tsp caster sugar

Pour boiling water over the onion and leave for 10 mins.

Arrange the tomatoes and cucumber (if using) on a plate, then scatter over the drained onions.

Mix the chilli and garlic with the vinegar and sugar, then season with salt. Drizzle over the salad just before serving.

This can be prepared and chilled up to 1 hr ahead, but dress just before serving.

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Potato – Recipes and Facts

Potatoes give you energy, potassium, and vitamin C. They are a carbohydrate, and these are important for physical health.

Potatoes come in many different varieties. Russets, reds, yellows, whites, purples, petites, and fingerlings. They can be cooked in many different ways, such as baking, frying, mashing, roasting and chipping. They can be made into dauphinoise, fondant, croquet or pomme Anna.

Their versatility means they can easily fit into meals across various personal, cultural, and dietary preferences.

Recipes

Potato, fennel, pear and Fourme d’Ambert timbale

Accordion potatoes

Smashed lemony potatoes with Greek yoghurt and feta dressing

Potato and kale rosti

Scandi potato salad

Potato, fennel, pear and Fourme d’Ambert timbale – From La Tartine Gourmande website

  • 2 lb + 3.5 oz potatoes
  • 1 large fennel
  • 1 pear
  • 1 large onion
  • 3.5 oz Fourme d’Ambert Cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • Chives, chopped
  • A dash of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • Huile d’olive

Butter your ramekins and line them with sheets of parchment paper. Preheat your oven at 170 C.

Peel the potatoes and cook them for 12 to 15 mins in salted boiling water. Let them cool a little before slicing them thinly.

Cook the fennel for 15 mins in salted boiling water. Slice it thinly.

Peel and core the pear. Slice it thinly (add a few drops of lemon to prevent oxydation).

Slice the onion and cook if for 10 mins in olive oil, on low heat.

In a bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, chives and season with salt and pepper. Add the nutmeg.

Line slices of potatoes around the edge of the ramekin and place a few at the bottom. Keep them tight. Continue with a layer of onions and a layer of fennel and pear slices. Continue with a layer of potatoes, thin slices of cheese, slices of pears and fennel. Finish with a layer of potatoes.

Pour the egg batter, making sure that it goes down all the way to the bottom.

Cook in the oven for 45 to 50 mns. Check whether the top potatoes are cooked and wait a few mns when taking out before unmolding on a plate. Decorate with chives and serve with a meat of your choice and a green salad.

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Accordion Potatoes – from Lily G Bakes website

  • Melted butter
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Cut both rounded ends off the potato.

Slice lengthways into approx. 1cm thick slices.

Place 2 skewers either side of the potato and make 1-2mm thick vertical cuts all the way across. (The skewers help not to cut all the way through)

Flip over and repeat this but diagonally. (When you pull the slice apart you’ll get this awesome accordion effect)

Carefully pierce a skewer through the slice, stretch it out, then give it a light twist. Rest them on a lined baking tray.

In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter, fresh parsley, rosemary, salt & pepper.

Brush the potatoes with the mixture and place in the oven at 200°C/400°F until nice and crispy (About 25 mins).

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Smashed Lemony Potatoes with Greek yogurt and Feta Dressing – from Feed The Swimmers website

For the potatoes

  • Approx 2 lbs golf ball sized potatoes – approximately 15 pieces.
  • Flaky Sea Salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • 1/2 lemon, cut into segments
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

For the yoghurt feta dip

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (preferably full fat)
  • Approx 3 oz of feta, crumbled (I love goat/sheep feta)
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbs chopped dill
  • 1 Tbs chopped mint (optional)
  • Juice and zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 Tbs red wine vinegar (white wine vinegar is a fine substitute)
  • 1 tsp capers, pref salt cured, rinsed and drained
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
  • Flaky sea salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

Add potatoes to a saucepan, cover by 1-2” with cold water and generously salt. Bring to a boil and cook just until fork tender. While potatoes are boiling, preheat oven to 200 C. Drain potatoes into a colander and set over empty warm pot to fully dry.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and lay out potatoes. With the bottom of a glass or glass jar, gently but firmly smash down each potato, being careful not to fully mash them.

Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add thyme and lemon wedges/slices to tray and bake, turning with a spatula at 20 minutes and baking for another 20-30 until edges are a beautiful golden brown. If potatoes break, no worries, they’ll still taste delicious but you may need to lesson baking time for smaller pieces.

While potatoes are baking whisk together all, but the feta and a pinch of the parsley and zest, of the ingredients for the yogurt dip then stir in feta. Adjust seasoning. Set aside.

Whisk together all, but the feta and a pinch of the parsley and zest, of the ingredients for the yogurt dip then stir in feta. Adjust seasoning. Set aside.

Plate potatoes from the oven and top with yogurt feta dressing while still warm. Sprinkle on olives, or tapenade, parsley and zest and serve.

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Potato and kale rosti – from delightful vegans website

  • 2 medium potatoes grated
  • 3 leaves of kale de-stalked and chopped
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Generous sprinkle of white pepper
  • olive oil

Grate your potatoes and squeeze as much water as you can from them. I like to use my food processor to do this as it has a grater attachment and it’s much quicker and cleaner to do it this way. I use the julienne grater attachment.

Roughly chop the kale. Add the squeezed grated potato into a bowl and add the kale, salt and white pepper. 

Cover a non-stick fry pan with oil. When it is hot add the potato mixture and cover the bottom. Tuck in the potato on the sides so they don’t burn. Turn the heat down to medium and cook the potato for about 10 to 12 minutes. It should get nice and crispy on the bottom.

Carefully flip the rosti and cook on the other side. You may want to do this with a plate if you think it might break. (I used two spatulas!). Cook on that side for a further 10 to 12 minutes until browned.

Pat with paper towel if desired to soak up some of the extra oil. Serve immediately with vegan mayonnaise.

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Scandi potato salad – from Food and Travel website

  • 1 small red onion, finely sliced
  • 1tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1kg new potatoes
  • ½ cucumber, deseeded and finely diced
  • 1 bunch of spring onions, finely sliced
  • 5-6 large gherkins, finely sliced
  • 2tsp Dijon or English mustard
  • 4tbsp soured cream
  • 2tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2tbsp Greek or natural yoghurt handful of dill, finely chopped

Put the onion in a bowl, pour over the vinegar and set aside.

Place the potatoes in a pan of cold, salted water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 12-15 minutes until tender. Drain and slice in half or quarter if large.

Tip the potatoes into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature with the onions scattered over the top.

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Potato Harvest 2022

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 harvest most of one of the plots of potatoes. Thank you to all our members who made it and volunteered on the day. We really appreciate all your hard work.

Michelle and Sienna working on their muscles at the potato harvest!

We have several varieties that are now in the stores, with red and white potatoes offering a mix of cooking and taste possibilities. We have Alouette, Twinner, Heidi, Sarpo Axona and Vitabella potatoes to share with you.

Check out our recipe section on our website for ideas of dishes to enjoy with all your Bennison Farm veg.

Before we know it next years harvest will roll around and we hope to see lots of you there!

Farm News Autumn/Winter 2022

Giving thanks for our borehole!

The timing couldn’t have been better for installing our new borehole last May. Soon after the installation it stopped raining for the whole summer and it wasn’t until the middle of October that we had a half decent amount of rain. Of course we’re used to dry summers in this part of the country but this summer was exceptional. Goodness knows how big out water bill would have been without the borehole.

The borehole is essentially a narrow well – a six inch diameter perforated pipe sunk into the ground with a pump in the bottom. Ours is 7m deep and sits in the sand and gravel which holds the ground water. We weren’t sure if there would be enough water to see us through the drought but we were pleasantly surprised that even after a dry winter and summer the borehole was still flowing.

In spite of a free and plentiful water supply it was still a real struggle to keep on top of the irrigation, and not all crops got enough water to achieve their full potential. Inevitably we prioritised some crops and unfortunately dropped the ball on others. Our main crop beetroot was pretty patchy which might have been partly due to inadequate moisture during germination. Brussels sprouts missed out on irrigation and so never quite reached their full size and yields were also low for some of our potato varieties.

On other crops pests got out of hand, perhaps favoured by the warm conditions or due to a lack of natural predators which may have suffered in the drought. Swede were completely decimated by flea beetle who love the hot and dry weather and some of the broccoli and cabbages took a big hit from aphid. Normally these are controlled by the larvae of parasitic wasps but as the adults feed on pollen and nectar I wonder whether the drought could have had an impact on their food source and ultimately their numbers.

On the whole though we faired pretty well. Heat loving crops such as squash, tomatoes and aubergine we’re exceptional. Aubergines were staple in the veg bags for most of July and August, tomatoes were beautiful and in abundance and squash were large and plentiful giving us a bumper harvest for Autumn and early Winter. We’ve also had plenty of carrot, leeks, parsnips, celeriac, Savoy cabbage, and winter greens to see us through the colder months. Other veg that worked well have been a selection of lovely herbs, greens and salads in the polytunnel. So we’ll eat well this winter. As always you win some and you loose some but we plant enough of a variety of crops to make sure that even if some don’t do as well as others there is still plenty for the veg shares.

Now our thoughts are turning to the next season. We are putting up a new polytunnel for propagating our seedings. Until now we’ve had to buy in any plants which require additional heat to get started. Now we have electricity on site we’ll be able to build a heated propagation bench to give our seedlings a head start. This will be particularly useful for our first early plants which we’ll be sowing in January and February and also for the heat loving crops such as tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, cucumber, courgettes and French beans. We’ve also being working on next years cropping plan and tweaking our crop rotations to maximise productivity and keep the veg shares as varied as possible through out the year. It’s now time to order seeds and then it won’t be long before we start sowing again and so the never ending cycle continues!

Borehole!

We’re very please to have had a borehole installed at the farm. A borehole is basically a narrow well that pumps water out of the ground for irrigating our crops.

Until now we’ve relied on mains water which costs a lot when watering on our scale, especially as we’re in the driest part of the country. 

We were confident that the contractors would find water as the farm sits on sand and gravel on top of London clay which provides good conditions for a shallow borehole. They drilled 7 meters down to the London clay and lined the hole with a permeable pipe which allows the water to flow in as we pump it out.

We couldn’t be sure of what the supply would be like until the pump was installed but we were not disappointed. We have a consistent supply of 45 litres per minute. That’s 2.7 cubic metres per hour which is plenty for our needs.

We can now water twice as much as before which is helped by installing a wider pipe across the farm to insure that we don’t loose pressure along the way. Best of all the water is free! (once we have paid our loan off!)