Harvest Festival

On Saturday 13th September we held our very first Harvest Festival - a celebration of our first season growing food together and all we've achieved. We invited all our families, supporters, donors and other interested parties for a look around the farm, shared some food and drink, and played games and a raffle to raise some extra money for FoodSmiles. It was a brilliant afternoon and our guests were suitably impressed with our progress - we even added a few new names to our waiting list!

Thanks very much to all who helped make it such a success, and to all those who came along. Those who donated food or raffle prizes include local restaurants Lussman's and That Little Place, The Pudding Stop, The Courtyard Cafe, Charlie's Coffee and Redbournbury Mill - many thanks!

After sowing our very first seeds on 23rd April, we began taking our first harvests on 2nd July, and in the 11 weeks since then we've harvested an amazing 160kg potatoes, 71kg courgettes, 42kg cucumbers, 42kg spinach and chard, 34kg lettuce, rocket and mustard, 31kg beetroots, 20kg carrots, 10kg tomatoes, plus beans, spring onions, chillies, calabrese and more! Teamwork's a wonderful thing :-)

Below are a few pictures of the afternoon, taken by Transition St Albans.


Our member Roselyne, who runs vegetarian and dairy-free cookery courses professionally, has kindly offered to provide recipes and tips for making the most of our produce. They will be posted here every week or two, and we hope you enjoy them!

Pesticides have been linked with Alzheimer’s Disease. The ‘Organic versus Non-Organic’ Newcastle study has shown that organic crops are up to 60% higher in a number or key antioxidants than conventionally-grown ones (antioxidants include Vit A, C, E, carotenoid, selenium, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Co-Enzyme Q10, Reservatrol, etc., all effective at battling free radicals - so called toxins); this study published in the British Journal of Nutrition also shows significantly lower levels of toxic heavy metals in organic crops. Hooray!

The one thing, I think, that still puts some people off eating organic vegetables is the fact that, if the
veg come with extra mud (esp, carrots and potatoes), they have to be washed thoroughly first and it
takes a while longer to prepare them. If this annoys you, you may well find that it is worth investing
in a vegetable brush (I have had mine for approx. 15 years and it looks a bit like an old brown loo brush, I am afraid!) but it is very good at removing the stubborn earth stuck on the veg! Then you can get on with preparing your recipes promptly.

This week and last week, as expected, we had more courgettes in our box; I cut my smaller courgette
in slices and cooked these gently until caramelised (golden on both sides) in garlic, salt and oregano
infused olive oil. I then served these with my meal with a tasty tomato sauce on the side. If you had a courgette flower attached to your courgette and are looking for ideas for fillings, one of the easiest ways is to fill them up (do not overfill) with the leftovers of a well-flavoured risotto or goat’s cheese with herbs, twist the top of the flower closed and dip into a light batter; then deep-fry the flower until golden in hot oil. Drain well on a triple layer of kitchen paper and you will have a successful starter; serve with a tasty home-made tomato chutney and a little side salad.

Courgettes can also be successfully roasted in the oven; cut the courgettes in chunky pieces, leaving their skins on, add half a sliced red onion, some chunkily chopped red pepper and place on a oven-proof tray; then, prepare your special mix to ‘spread’ over the chopped courgettes: chop 4 cloves of garlic and place in a bowl, 2–3 tsp chopped fresh thyme, 1⁄2 to 1 tsp salt and 1⁄4 tsp coarsely
ground black pepper; add 5 tablespoons olive and stir. Place the courgettes on a baking sheet
and add their ‘dressing’, mixing it all well with your hands (if you don’t mind the garlic). Bake in a
preheated oven to Gas Mark 6, 400F, 200C for 25 to 30 mins and serve with a dash of lemon, if liked. Alternatively, these courgettes can be used to top a mixed leaf salad, could be used as part of a
quiche filling or used in a Spanish omelette.

Of course, halves of the whole large courgettes and marrows can be used as a boat and stuffed
with a meaty or veggie filling; the cooking time for this can be quite long, so what I prefer doing is
cut rings off the main courgette (removing the pips and the soft part in the middle) and fry these
gently on both sides in olive oil for 15 minutes in total, using a heavy based skillet; I then cover the
skillet or frying pan for the last 10 minutes of the cooking time. I do this whilst preparing a veggie
Bolognese-style filling; this way, the stuffed courgette rings take very little time to cook in the oven
and the dish can be ready overall in 40 to 45 minutes.

Last week we had a few very cherry tomatoes which I made into a salad, dressed with the very
pungent fresh basil; I made a dressing of olive oil, chopped fresh basil, a hint of wine vinegar and sea salt and black pepper. Freshly picked, the tomatoes tasted deliciously sweet! This week, as
my box had a yellow tomato and some red ones and a mixture of salad leaves (including oak leaf
lettuce), my salad looked and tasted lovely!

I skinned the beetroot and put it through my juicer together with one of the apples; it made the most delicious sweet juice! Some spinach can also be used in green juices with apple and cucumber.

Last week I made a dhal – spicy red lentil soup - with the addition of our delicious diced potatoes,
sweet carrots and chopped spinach leaves (added towards the end of the cooking time); well spiced
and flavoured, that was warming and delicious on the rainy evenings! I would urge you to use some of your spinach leaves in this way.

For more information or comments, email roselyne@lacuisineimaginaire.co.uk