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  • Writer's pictureChris Kameen

Kale flowers and a fresh leaf bounty

What a great harvest this week at the Vale Grocer, so exciting for this time of year. So far this week we have harvested a lot of leeks, spinach, chard, salad and kale flowers. If you haven't had kale flowers before then we reckon you are in for a treat. When harvesting them we eat lots raw! They taste very similar to purple sprouting broccoli, but are fab steamed and then drizzled with melted butter with a squeeze of lemon and maybe sprinkled with salt...mmm.

Liz was away for much of last week and then we were all away as a family over the weekend and one of the things we noticed and struggled with was how hard it was to find food that tasted as good as what we eat at home. That's not to say we cook better than chefs in a good restaurant (and we did have a great curry out!), but it's the little things that you almost take for granted at home.

Suddenly you're paying a lot of money for fruit that doesn't taste of anything and needs washing 20 times, side salads that aren't made from our freshly picked leaves, eggs that are just a bit pale and watery, veg that needs lots of things added to it as it just deosn't taste good enough on it's own. Think we've become fussy - or perhaps selective. We really do miss our produce when we don't have it and know many of our customers feel the same! Which is one of the big motivations for doing what we do and making sure we can run the business in a way that ensures we can continue.

The ongoing veg shortage in the supermarkets and the way it is being reported is making us chuckle (at best, and grimace at worst) - from our perspective there is plenty to go around, it just might be a little more expensive than usual. It is a shame that the supermarkets - amd media reporting - have chosen to focus on the empty shelves and bad weather rather than using it as an opportunity to showcase the abundance and quality of more locally grown seasonal veg and helping people to get excited about what is available rather than getting worried about what isn't. How amazing if they had come out and said let's all get behind what veg we can get hold of at the moment. Anyway, you know where to come if you want a variety of great-tasting local and seasonal veg ;)

In the field:

This week we had a lot of harvesting which took a considerable amount of time, but we've also now started weeding.....and so it begins for the next 6 months or so!!

We're getting the nervous excitement as the season inches it's way nearer.. Potatoes are chitting, the leeks have sprouted.. At our altitude we still reckon it is too early to start most things off, so are holding back.

This weeks harvest: 10kg leeks, 4kg kale flowers, 3kg chard, 3kg spinach and 4kg of salad, with more to come for the shop. This has supplemented the rest of our leeks, potatoes and onions from Bryn Cochyn in Henllan, and the parsnips from Rod in Abergele. We really are building a good local food network which we are very proud of and hope to expand this year.

In the boxes:

We've started having to buy more and more from Europe now as the hungry gap takes a hold - there is only so much root veg and cabbage that we can eat, so we're trying to mix it up and have managed to source some pretty good looking (and tasting) veg! Hopefully you all agree.

The apples are starting to come to an end, which is one of the reason we've been putting them in the boxes lately.. In the next couple of weeks we'll be making the transition to rhubarb and then berries and the next apples will be end of August. Time to stew some and put them in the freezer?

Small - potatoes, carrots, onions, curly kale, parsnips (from Abergele), salad*, tomatoes, apples

Regular - potatoes, carrots, onions, chard or spinach*, leeks*, mushrooms, white cabbage, green palermo peppers, aubergine, clementines

*some or all of these from Prion

In the shop:

We've got a pretty good range this week, might struggle to find space for it all!.. if ever there was a week to compare us to a supermarket this would be it!! We've got red palermo peppers back in (yay) and plenty of fruit after being a bit low on stock last week. No fresh garlic at the moment as it's all trying to sprout, we're missing it at home - need to remember to mince and freeze some for next winter.

Potatoes - white Cara - from Bryn Cochyn (Henllan), including 7.5kg and 12.5 kg sacks

Roscoff pink onions, brown onions from Bryn Cochyn

Carrots, swede, beetroot, sweet potato, fresh ginger and turmeric

Courgettes, Harlequin squash, leeks, celery, white mushrooms, tomatoes, celery, red and green palermo peppers, cauliflowers, red cabbage, white cabbage, baby savoy cabbages

Limited: Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, Prion salad, broad beans, kale flowers

Fruit: Apples (Ashmeads Kernel, Adams Permain), cooking apples, bananas, lemons, clementines, oranges

+ free-range eggs - £2 for a box - and our ever increasing store cupboard range including organic beers, pasta, flour, oats, plus some new organic tomato ketchup. Also sourdough from Nant y Felin restaurant. The milk from Pentrefelin dairy sold well last week but we still took 3 bottles home with us - we're keen to keep up our regular order with Huw, so don't forget to ask for a bottle when you're in!

In the kitchen:

We loved this green lentil soup we made this week with a tin of green lentils we found in the cupboard- we left out garlic (see note above - boo) but it still tasted great and Chris has put it up there as one his favourite soups! We also did this veggie chilli which we've shared before but is so good it's worth mentioning again for new customers. Wanted to also just share some swiss chard advice from Riverford as I think chard is one of the trickier things to get right (It took me a while to enjoy chard) - if you've never seen or cooked with chard before have a read of this before you emjbark on your chard journey!

We've been listening to a few of the ZOE science & nutrition podcasts recently, so if you haven't come across them here's a link. And here's a story about a chef - Shibonu Namae - who 'hopes to inspire people to be more thoughtful about what they eat' and actively promotes the small producers he buys from.

Our online shop is here if you need any extra for your box or want to pre-order to pick up in the shop.

have a lovely week

#enjoy that tasty veg

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