Brilliant Buckwheat

1 Jul 2019 | 0 comments

Buckwheat is not, as the name of the plant implies, a cereal; it is a member of the Polygonaceae family of flowering plants that includes docks, sorrels and rhubarb. There are different species of buckwheat but common buckwheat, Fagopyrum esculentum, is the species most often grown in the west.

Buckwheat is a broad-leafed, herbaceous, annual plant which, after flowering, produces a fruit referred to as an achene, which means it contains a single seed that doesn't open at maturity. The tough outer hull is a triangular shaped, dark brown shell which has a hard, fibrous structure and surrounds the seed coat, endosperm and embryo tightly.

Green manure crop
Buckwheat is commonly grown as a green manure crop to increase soil fertility. Grown for this purpose, it is usually cut down before flowering or producing seed when the stems are soft as they decompose quicker and are easier to incorporate into the soil.
Buckwheat flowers, bees and hoverflies
Buckwheat produces pretty little pink or white flowers that are loved by bees and hoverflies. The latter are very beneficial, particularly in organic systems, because their larvae feed on aphids. Therefore, growing buckwheat alongside vegetable crops will keep the pest load low without the need for pesticides.

Creating a habitat for bees and hoverflies is reason enough for growing buckwheat, but the seed also provides a very nutritious food.
Buckwheat nutrition
The protein content in common buckwheat groats is similar to that in cereal grains and ranges from 13 to 14%. However, unlike cereal proteins, buckwheat proteins have a well-balanced amino acid composition containing all eight essential amino acids, including lysine. Due to the high lysine content, buckwheat proteins have a higher biological value than cereal proteins such as those of wheat, barley, rye, and corn.
Buckwheat is a very good source of manganese as well as copper, magnesium, phosphorous and dietary fibre. Buckwheat also provides iron, essential for healthy blood, and can protect against osteoporosis because of its high boron and calcium levels.
Finally, the flavonoid rutin was first discovered in buckwheat in the 19th century, which is effective in reducing blood cholesterol as well as improving strength and flexibility of blood capillaries.


Serves 1

Handful of sprouted buckwheat
1 dessertspoon pumpkin seeds
1 dessertspoon sunflower seeds
125ml hemp milk
1 teaspoon honey
Handful of summer berries 
1 dessertspoon chia seeds

Place the sprouted buckwheat, pumpkin and sunflower seeds in a bowl with the honey, pour over the hemp milk and leave overnight.

The next morning, add the berries and serve topped with chia seeds.



serves 4 generously

250g raw buckwheat, soaked overnight
4 medium beetroot, peeled & quartered
4 red onions, peeled & quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 dessertspoon balsamic vinegar
Small bunch parsley, roughly chopped
Small handful basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 handfuls rocket
Black pepper & salt
Olive oil & hemp seeds

Oven 180°C/350°F/Gas 4

Drain and rinse the buckwheat, then pop into a saucepan of boiling water and cook for 8 - 10 minutes or until just tender. Drain thoroughly, then spread out on a tray or large plate to cool down. Set aside.

In a roasting pan, toss the beetroot in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with sea salt, cover with a lid or foil, and pop in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, toss well and add the onions and garlic. Cook for a further 20 minutes. Turn up the oven heat to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6 and return uncovered to oven for 10 mins or until tender and just beginning to caramelise. Remove from oven and cool.

Tip the roasted veg into a bowl, add the buckwheat and mix together. Add the herbs, rocket, a good twist of black pepper and salt to taste. Gently combine and divide between four bowls. Top with a little extra olive oil and hemp seeds to serve.

Daphne Lambert is an award winning chef, author and founding member and CEO of food education charity, the Green Cuisine Trust. She is an expert in the field of health and nutrition and runs our seasonal Living Nutrition retreats, unfolding the relationship between land, food, health and vitality. 

Visit the course page to find out more about Living Nutrition.

Thrilled by Trill

1 Jul 2019 | 0 comments


Let me paint the scene: I’m crouched on my haunches in long rushes, on the bank of an expansive pond fringed with magnificent blooms of flag iris, loosestrife and ragged robin. 

The sweet smell of water mint fills my nostrils, crushed below my boots as I lower the last of 35 wooden pens into place on the bankside. The pens, filled with soft straw, quartered apples and sliced carrot, rustle with excitement as the newest residents of this paradise scamper and dart as their senses are bombarded through the mesh of the pen. Each soft-release cage contains between two and five water voles, captive bred and ready for their first taste of freedom in Devon’s verdant hills.

Last autumn, working in partnership with East Devon District Council and the Axe Vale & District Conservation Society, we were successful in bringing 213 new water voles to the lower stretches of the River Axe. Whilst numbers were hit hard by the winter, a natural phenomenon which can account for up to 70% of a population of water voles each year, they are now exploding in the nature reserve and signs of their presence can be found on every stretch of river, brook or ditch. 

This year, therefore, we have shifted our focus upstream and have teamed up with Trill Farm to establish a breeding colony here to help spread the loveliness that is water voles downstream into the Axe.

The reason that this initiative is needed in the first place is due to the localised extinction of water voles in Devon in the mid-nineties. Loss of suitable riverside habitat and water quality issues were cited as partial reasons for their loss, but the most substantial reason for their disappearance was the unchecked proliferation of invasive American mink. 

The voles here at Trill Farm will be protected from mink, partly by myself and a team of volunteers, but mainly by the presence of otters on the brook. I found a black, oily spraint on one of the spillways as we were placing the release pens, and an otter is a far more effective mink controller than any human could hope to be. They are kings of the stream. 

The spraint is an otter’s calling card, a small fecal deposit, full of fish bones, and covered in the animal’s musky secretions. To humans they smell wonderfully of jasmine tea and olive oil, but to a mink it is the smell of death and they either move on or face the fatal consequences.

Otters will eat water voles if they happen upon them but, unlike the smaller thinner mink, otters can’t fit into a vole burrow and so the voles have an escape route. Water voles have no escape from mink; the mink can follow them into the water, onto the land and into their burrow.

The one hundred water voles, expertly bred by Derek Gow, were soft released over a period of a week in early June. This allowed the animals to become acclimatised to their new surroundings, to impart their own smell on the location and to begin to sample the food on offer. Water voles are not particularly fussy and will eat pretty much any bankside vegetation, but the soft-release approach allows them to get a taste for what is here, whilst being supplemented with a quarter of an apple and a slice of carrot per animal, per day. At the end of the process we open the cages, allow them a day or two to burrow or disperse, and then pop around and remove all the kit.

Trill Farm hosts many school visits and so I am hopeful that the voles will install themselves as firm favourites for visiting children learning about farming and the countryside, giving them the chance of spotting a mammal which the last generation have missed out on seeing on our rivers. Keep an eye out if you are visiting for a course or a farm lunch too!

James Chubb is the Countryside Team Leader responsible for delivering practical habitat management and species monitoring on all of East Devon District Council’s nature reserves. He has a particular focus on delivering the Seaton Wetlands nature reserve project just a few miles from Trill Farm, and has a passion for looking after East Devon’s countryside and wild spaces for people to enjoy.

Summer in the Garden

1 Jul 2019 | 0 comments

At last, the threat of frost has passed and the longest day of the year arrives. With this brings the prospect of summer vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, courgettes and peppers, all of which were planted from the beginning of May.

It is always best not to rush into planting these tender crops, otherwise you end up worrying about frosts and having to fleece crops which are already stringed up.

Our garden is mostly planted up by June, and usually looks its best now, before the earlier crops start to fade a little, and still with the vibrancy of late spring. It is a time when we start to see some of the early crops being replaced by a succession of salads. The salad mix can have a huge variety of leaves, with various lettuces as the summer stalwarts. We especially like Cerbiatta, and you can’t beat Maureen, a lovely little gem. 

One of our favourite leaves this time of year is agretti, which we grow in tunnels for the tender salad leaves and outside as a vegetable to blanch. It is an Italian vegetable likened to samphire, with a slightly salty crunchiness. It is notoriously difficult to germinate, and we find it best to save our own seeds. We leave a few plants to mature without harvesting them, then simply hang them up in the polytunnel from October onwards where the seed ripens further. We then sow it from January successionally through to April or May.

Other leaves that we are harvesting now include summer purslane and goosefoot. We grow these in polytunnels, but they will do fine in a fairly warm, dryish summer outside too. Also salad burnet, chervil, amaranth, fenugreek, nasturtiums, peashoots and endive to name but a few.

For us, June is a time to reflect on all the planning and work that has gone into the market garden over winter and spring, when we can look at the garden and be proud of how beautiful it is. However, the work certainly doesn’t stop here, and there is plenty to do to keep the weeds down and ensure beds are constantly being utilised. 

As the early spring crops such as radish, peas and broad beans begin to fade, we usually mow them down and cover the beds with black silage plastic to help kill off any weeds and speed up the breaking down process. In this way, we capture the energy and nutrients stored in the previous crop, ready to feed the next. It usually takes around 3 weeks for the crop residues to break down enough to take off the plastic, rake and plant something new, so we always plan to have trays of new crops ready for planting in place of the old.

Ash and Kate run Trill Farm Garden, supplying the Old Dairy Kitchen and many other local restaurants with fresh, seasonal and varied produce. 

Visit the course page to find out more about the Salad Growing course.