Happy Birthday Bennison Farm!

This year we’re celebrating our 10th Anniversary. It been quite a journey to get here, with plenty of sweat and a few tears along the way!

We arrived at Bennison Farm in February 2012 with no money but some experience and fortunately plenty of local support for the venture. We borrowed a small amount from family and were very fortunate to be given an old tractor from a farm where I used to work. We scraped through our first year with poor soil giving mixed results. Our fantastically committed members supported us through a lean Winter but as we invested in the soil and our yields grew, so did our membership.

In August we will have been packing veg bags for 10 years! We’re very proud to have provided veg shares to our members every week since we started and apart from the first winter all produce has been grown on the farm. We’re also delighted to have a few members who have been with us for the whole time through thick and thin!

Community Supported Agriculture really works for us. The support and help of our members has been critical to getting the scheme off the ground and keeping it running and our thanks go out to our Steering Group for playing a key role this. It makes a real difference having a steady and predictable outlet for our produce. When times are good we share the bounty and when times are hard it’s a comfort knowing that we have committed members who will stay the course. A great many thanks to the members, staff, volunteers and family who have supported us over the years. We couldn’t have done this without you!

On the Saturday July 30th Bennison Farm’s 10th Birthday Party so do come and join us from 3pm for fun, food and live music whilst we step back from our work and celebrate 10 year of providing fresh, local Organic veg!

Book here!

Recipes and Facts – Radish

Radishes are members of the Brassicaceae (mustard or cabbage) family. The root is related to kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and horseradish, among others.

Radishes are a great low-cal snack; one cup of sliced radishes has only 19 calories.


Gzik – Polish Cheese on Toast

Black radish – Roasted with olive oil

Black radish – Shredded raw salad

Black radish – Mash

Gzik – Polish Cheese on Toast – From Farm Member Nicola

  • 150g Twarog (polish soft cheese) – can be substituted with a pot of cottage cheese
  • 3 tablespoons of sour cream – can be substituted with crème fraiche/Greek yoghurt
  • 1-2 bunches of radishes diced into cubes- quantity depends on what you get in your veg bag!
  • 1 bunch of chives
  • Salt and pepper
  • Slices of soured gherkins put on top (optional)
  • Slices of bread – toasted or fresh e.g. sourdough.  We toast slices of ‘Romanian bread’ from Colchester’s Blackberry bakery

Mix soft cheese with sour cream to get a smoother, less lumpy consistency.
Add in radishes, chives, salt and pepper

Spread mixture on toast
Add slices of soured gherkins on top

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Black radish – Roasted with olive oil – From Organic Lea.org

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Peel and chop the root to equal-sized pieces. Coat lightly with olive oil, sea salt, and flakes of chilli, and roast for about 20 minutes, with one break to toss them around in the pan in between.

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Black radish – Shredded raw salad – From Organic Lea.org

Because Black radishes are a bit spicier and tougher than most types, combined with the sweetness of carrots and tartness of fresh apples, they’re a lovely combination. Use lots of fresh lemon juice and let it soak in for a while, along with good olive oil, and finish it with a few mint sprigs for extra refreshment.

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Black radish – Mash – From Organic Lea.org

This could lend a hint of flavour if blended with mashed potatoes, or it could be the start of a creamy radish soup if simmered with stock.

To concentrate the flavour, roast the radishes in their skins, sliced in half flesh side-down on a baking tray or roasting pan.

After a good 40 minutes or so, the flesh shrinks back and allows the skin to be easily peeled off the bulb once cool. Mash with butter, oil, or margarine, salt and black pepper.

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Recipes and Facts – Patty Pan

Patty pan squash, also known as scallop squash, is a variety of summer squashes originated from Mexico.

Patty pan can be used in a variety of ways, from stuffed, grilled, roasted, and even raw. Trim the stem end before eating. Tender pattypan can be used with the skin left on. The fruit can be cut into small cubes or wedges before cooking.


Patty Pan Squash and Chickpea Tikka Masala

Patty Pan Squash and Chickpea Tikka Masala – Slavic Vegan website

  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 350g pattypan squash, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp hot paprika
  • salt to taste
  • splash of oil

For Tikka Masala Sauce

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp hot paprika
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground fenugreek leaves
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • oil for cooking
  • fresh coriander for garnish

Preheat oven to 200°c.

In a mixing bowl toss together cooked chickpeas and pattypan squash with minced ginger, garlic, hot paprika, salt and oil. Transfer onto a lined baking tray and separate squash from chickpeas.

Bake for 20 minutes. Stir the chickpeas and squash halfway to prevent it from burning.

Meanwhile make the sauce by heating oil in a shallow pan over medium heat. Sauté onion until translucent. Add garlic and ginger and stir for a minute. Then add Garam Masala, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and hot paprika. Cook until spices release their flavors and add tomatoes. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.

Transfer everything into a blender followed by cashews, turmeric powder and ground fenugreek leaves. Blend until smooth and creamy.

Pour the sauce back into the pan, dilute with some water if desired and bring to simmer. Throw in baked chickpeas and pattypan squash. Season with salt and cook for few minutes just to combine all the flavors together.

Serve over rice or quinoa and garnish with fresh coriander.

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Recipes and Facts – Peppers

Sweet peppers and chilies are both derived from the same species, Capsicum annuum. The pepper plant is a member of the Solanaceae or “nightshade” family, which also includes tomatoes and potatoes.

Sweet pepper plants offer fruits that differ greatly in color, shape and size according to various varieties. Sweet peppers are often green or red in color, but sometimes also yellow, white, purple or black.

Apart from their mild, sweet flavor and wonderful taste sweet pepper is a good source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals.


Red Lentil Loaf – Green Pepper

Red Lentil Loaf – Great British Chef Website

  • 200g of red lentils
  • 400ml of vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt
  • pepper, and other spices for seasoning

Place the lentils and stock in a saucepan and gently simmer until the liquid has been absorbed and the lentils are soft. Strain into a sieve and stand to allow excess liquid to drain.

Whilst the lentils are cooking fry the vegetables until they are starting to turn golden.

Place the lentils, cooked vegetables (add any grated root vegetables at this stage) and egg into a bowl and mix. Season well with some herbs, spices and salt and pepper.

Pour the mixture into a lined and greased 500g loaf tin and bake at 200°C (fan 180°C) for 40 – 50 minutes until risen, golden brown and firm to the touch. Allow to stand for 5 minutes and then turn out.

Serve sliced, or let it cool and fry to use as a burger.

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Food miles……..going the distance.

By Farm Member Michelle Worn

I said I would look into food miles for the Spring edition of Bennison’s newsletter, specifically the
journey of a green bean, but alas all is not as it may first appear.

Having read various articles I can conclude the picture is hazy and that food miles cannot be interpreted without the consideration of other vital factors such as farm practices (non-organic vs organic), employment, processing, packaging, storage and transport! Looking at food miles in isolation gives a false impression.

For instance, unsurprisingly, reports show that it is less environmentally friendly to grow out of season tomatoes in Britain under glass than it is to import tomatoes from Spain. The energy needed to heat glasshouses in Britain during the colder months to ripen tomatoes uses significantly more energy than transporting them from Spain where the warmer climate does the job.

So, eating seasonally is directly tied into food miles too. Interestingly, British apples harvested in September and October are then cold stored which, for a while, still outweighs carbon emissions from flown in apples, but by August, the lines cross. The amount of energy required to keep them fresh will then overtake the carbon cost of shipping apples in from New Zealand. Therefore, in July and August it is argued that is better to buy apples from New Zealand.

It is, like most things, a balancing act and very much personal choice and circumstance driven but regardless, it is no doubt beneficial to take stock.

As a family of 3, writing this article has again made me consider how we do things versus how I want
to do things. My grandad had an allotment in his back garden – I still have his book of plot notes –
and the idea of growing what you need, in sync with your local seasonality and hence reducing all
unnecessary outputs sits the most comfortably. However, I do appreciate that space, health, time
and ‘the rest of life’ makes this harder to become a reality.

This is where supporting local, organic veg schemes such as Bennison Farm really helps address these issues. The farm supports the lives of local people and the vegetables are grown and sown organically, processed by hand, stored in an old truck body, packaged (only where necessary and then mainly in recyclable materials), and finally driven no more than 8 miles from the farm for collection. Wondering about the mileage of that green bean? Most coming from Kenya, it’s 4237 miles!

Articles I used and / or found interesting:

Farm News – March 2022

Winter can be a challenging time when it comes to supplying seasonal veg in the UK. Our short growing season means that once you get to the autumn there is no chance to plant again if things go wrong.

We plant a wide range of crops so that we have things to fall back on if something doesn’t do as well as expected. If everything went well we’d probably have surplus but in general it all balances out. This Winter went pretty smoothly all things considered. Although not everything was perfect, there was little anxiety about filling the veg bags each week. As always we’re glad of the polytunnels in the colder months and we’ve had some fantastic salads and leafy greens since the turn of the year.

In March things get going and crops come out of dormancy and start to grow again. We have an abundance of spinach and chard in the polytunnels and some nice spring greens. In the field the leeks are doing us proud and we’re eagerly awaiting spring cauliflower and purple sprouting broccoli. This mixed with the last of the winter roots and onions will see us through to May when it gets a little trickier.

May is our ‘hungry gap’ when the last season’s produce is finished but much of the new season’s crops aren’t ready. There is only so long you can keep stored crops at ambient temperatures before they go soft or start to grow. In the field crops will ‘bolt’ – putting up their flowering stems ready to make seed. Of course we do our best to ameliorate this situation, very much helped by the use of polytunnels and fleece covers in the field to give the plants their own more favourable micro climate. Inevitably veg share’s become much lighter and leafier at this time – leaves being the first thing to grow before roots, shoots and fruits develop. It’s another challenging point in the calendar. but we make it through each year, if by the skin of our teeth and biting our nails! Somehow it always just about works out.

Our minds are very much on some exciting new developments that are happening this year. We’re awaiting the installation of a borehole which will give us our own free supply of water. We currently get our water from the mains but this can be pricey especially in a dry summer. The borehole should easily pay for itself in a few years. In order to run the borehole pump we needed power and so we’ve taken the plunge and invested in a mains power connection. This has the added benefit of supplying our new lorry container packing shed with power and lights taking us into the 20th century at last! It will be great to be able to run power tools without firing a generator, and having a kettle and radio in the packing shed won’t go amiss. We also have plans to erect a new polytunnel complete with heated benches for propagating seedlings in the early season and maybe even an automatic watering system.

Everything is on hold at the moment as UK power networks have been repairing storm damage and so unable to connect our power, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed things will start moving again soon.
In the meantime we are gearing up for the new growing season. Our newly adopted no dig system in our polytunnels is working well, with the soil being thickly mulched with a layer of compost, meaning the weed seeds are buried in the soil so there is much less weeding to do. There are also great benefits to the soil fauna and micro-organisms, being left to work their magic, recycling nutrients and making them available to the crops.

We’ve planted spinach, lettuce, Pak choi, fennel and mizuna in the polytunnels and sown carrots and peas. In the field we’re nearly ready to plant out the eagerly awaited delivery of our onion sets which will be the first thing to go in the ground. We’re glad of some dry weather which has allowed us to get the soil ready to plant on time. We’ll also be glad of some rain once we’ve planted!

Recipes and facts – Spring Greens

Spring greens belong to the brassica family. They provide you with a useful amount of vitamin C, to support your immune system, and vitamin K, to build bone strength.

They also contain natural compounds, such as sulforaphane and indoles.

They can be steamed, blanched or shredded and fried to create a dish not unlike to seaweed from a Chinese takeaway.


Spring greens spanakopita

Spring green fried rice & eggs

Spring greens spanakopita – From the BBC Good Food website

  • 500g spring greens , finely shredded, stalks and all
  • 150g butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large leeks , halved, cleaned and finely sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves , crushed
  • small pack parsley , chopped
  • small pack mint , chopped
  • ½small pack dill , chopped
  • ¼ nutmeg , finely grated
  • 250g ricotta
  • 100g pecorino , parmesan or vegetarian alternative, finely grated
  • 2 eggs , beaten
  • 1 lemon , zested
  • 270g pack filo pastry
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds (we used a mixture of black and white)

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, tip in the greens and cook for 1 min, then drain and leave in the colander to cool a little.

Melt 1 tbsp butter with the oil in a large pan. Add the leeks and a big pinch of salt, then stir over a medium heat until softened, about 8 mins. Add the garlic and cook for another min, then remove from the heat, tip into a large bowl and leave to cool.

Squeeze as much water out of the greens as you can; if you don’t mind getting a tea towel dirty, the best way to do this is to pile them onto the clean towel, gather the corners and squeeze. Add the greens to the pan with the leeks, then stir in the herbs, nutmeg, cheeses, eggs, zest and seasoning. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

You’ll need a 23cm springform cake tin to assemble the tart in. Melt the remaining butter in a pan or the microwave and use some of it to grease the tin. Now you’re ready to work with the filo. 

Have a clean tea towel to hand to keep the sheets covered as you work (it can dry out very quickly). Layer the sheets of filo in the tin, brushing each one really well with butter and leaving plenty of pastry hanging over the edge, to close the top with once filled. Scatter the sesame seeds between each layer of pastry as you go. Save a few sheets for the top.

Once the tin is lined, fill with the greens mixture. Scrunch a few more sheets of buttery pastry on top and fold in the overhanging sheets to close the tart. Scatter any remaining sesame seeds on top and drizzle over the remaining butter.

Bake for 40-45 mins until deep golden brown (cover with foil if it starts to brown too much). Remove from the tin as soon as you can to help keep the pastry crisp. Serve warm or cold.

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Spring green fried rice & eggs – From the BBC Good Food website

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs , 1 beaten
  • bunch of spring onions , chopped into 3cm lengths, tops finely sliced to serve
  • 1 green chilli , chopped
  • 2cm chunk of ginger , grated
  • 1 garlic clove , grated
  • 150g spring greens , shredded
  • 250g pouch of ready-cooked rice
  • 1 ½ tbsp soy sauce , plus extra to taste
  • sesame seeds , toasted, to serve

Heat a splash of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat. When hot, crack the eggs in and turn the heat down. This should make the eggs nice and crispy – without burning – while the yolks cook. Use a fish slice to remove, set aside on kitchen paper and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add the remaining oil to the pan, then scatter in the chopped spring onions, chilli, ginger and garlic and gently fry until softened, about 2-3 mins. Tip in the beaten egg and leave for 30 seconds until just set, then mash up with a spoon. Tip in the spring greens with a splash of water and cook until wilted. Add the rice and soy sauce and mix everything together, then season and tip into two bowls. Top with the eggs, sliced spring onion and sesame seeds to serve.

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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.


Purslane Winter

Winter Purslane

Buckshorn Plantain

Bucks Horn Plantain

Purple Frills Mustard

Golden Frills Mustard

Tatsoi Information, Recipes and Facts



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.