Recipes for Spring Health

2 Apr 2019 | 0 comments

As delicious as it might be, foraged wild garlic soup isn’t the only thing we can make from spring’s rich pickings. From nettles and cleavers to violets and dandelions, spring’s herbs can cleanse more than just our gut.

Here, three of our friends and course tutors offer up spring recipes for nibbles, tonics and cleansers. 

BUCKWHEAT & NETTLE CRACKERS

200g raw buckwheat groats, soaked for 1 hour, rinsed and sprouted for 1 day
1 large handful of nettle tops
75g ground linseed
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped

Plunge the nettle tops into boiling water for 30 seconds. Strain over a large jug to reserve the hot water. Refresh in cold water and drain.
Process the buckwheat and nettles in a food processor until well mixed, adding enough of the reserved nettle water to make a mixture that easily drops off a spoon. Drink the rest of the nettle water as a tea, if you like.
Place the buckwheat and nettle mixture in a bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients.
Line dehydrator trays with baking parchment.
Spread the mixture onto the trays to a thickness of approximately 3-4 mm. Dehydrate at 140 ̊F (60 ̊C) for about 2 hours, then score into squares of a size that takes your fancy. Dehydrate for a further 2 hours before flipping over. Dehydrate until completely dry.
When they are dry and crisp, remove, cool and store in an airtight jar.

No dehydrator? Try using your oven instead if it has a setting of 75 ̊C or less.

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.

The Green Grass of Home

2 Apr 2019 | 0 comments

In February, winter drags on, and we are fed up with rain, cold weather and no grass for our animals. As the average temperature starts to rise above roughly 7°C (usually in March), the grass starts to grow again.

By May, it is growing flat out, which is why most grazing animals in this part of the world would naturally give birth to their young in May, as it is then that the grass will give them enough energy to feed themselves as well as produce milk for their young.

It is increasingly recognised that grasslands are important for a range of reasons. Some of the rarest and most biodiverse habitats in the UK are unimproved wildflower-rich grasslands, of which only a tiny fraction remain of those that existed in the early twentieth century. The advent of fertiliser, herbicides and many farmers’ preference for productive rye grass at the exclusion of all other species, has meant that grasslands with more flowers than just white clover and dandelions are now increasingly rare.

Trill Farm is lucky to have around 30 acres of species-rich old pasture (containing ox-eye daisy, black knapweed, corky fruited water dropwort and a few orchids) and probably another 40 acres that are moderately rich with species such as bird’s foot trefoil and pignut. We treasure these pastures and aim to manage them sensitively with extensive cattle grazing and late season haymaking. 

It is increasingly recognised that permanent pasture has a valuable role to play in storing carbon. Critical to organic and environmentally minded farmers is the important role that grazing land has to play in building soil fertility with the help of legumes such as clover. Without grassland and grazing livestock, it is very difficult to restore fertility to land after cropping unless you rely on synthetic fertilisers.

So whilst I have much sympathy for the campaign to eat less meat, I struggle with idea that the vegan diet holds all the answers to an ethical and sustainable eating debate. There are many issues that should be considered alongside animal welfare when eating plant crops grown with fertilisers and pesticides, fresh vegetables flown in from abroad, year-round strawberries and tomatoes, or soya grown in the Amazon or palm oil grown in the last remnants of the Malaysian tropical forest.

It’s a minefield, but local organic food is the best solution I have come across to incorporate the many concerns of ethical and sustainable eating.

Jake runs his sheep at Trill to manage and support our wildflower meadows. Through his business, Wessex Conservation Grazing, he also keeps livestock on National Trust land in Dorset. 

Opportunities for New Beginners

2 Apr 2019 | 0 comments

Nine years ago, we were looking for our first opportunity as new entrants into horticulture. There were then, and still are now, two major barriers for new entrant farmers and growers; the lack of appropriate learning opportunities and access to land. 

We were lucky in that I had been brought up on an organic council owned smallholding from which my parents ran one of the earliest box schemes in the country, so I absorbed a huge amount of knowledge as I was growing up. We were also very fortunate to find Trill Farm, where we could start our own business on land with much of the main infrastructure for running a market garden already there. As a result, we had a great place to run our market garden, but also a good base of knowledge from which to start.

I had also studied Horticulture at Reading University, but what good that served me for starting my own market garden I am not quite sure; it was a great four years but it was focused on research and theory, a lot of which was out of date. I was also more inspired at that time to focus on historical garden restoration and that was the path that I followed whilst at University and for the two years after graduating.

Many others who wish to start a career in organic horticulture do not have access to the opportunities that I did. However, we run market gardening traineeships at Trill to provide a practical learning experience appropriate for people who wish to work at or run their own market garden.

We encourage trainees to stay for two seasons, each of 9 months long. This gives the opportunity to really get to grips with the technical side of market gardening and the chance to see two seasons, which can be completely different. We are also part of a network of around 10-15 farms, each of whom train growers. We work collaboratively so that trainees can have exchanges and learn through a series of training days at other farms to broaden their experiences.

We are seeking funding for this network so that the trainers can be paid for their time, but also so that the training days and exchanges can be covered to make it more accessible. We are working alongside The Landworkers’ Alliance to give better opportunities for new entrants into farming and growing – not only in terms of the training that is available, but also the opportunities of access to land and start up capital. After meetings with Defra this Spring, we hope to see more support from the government to continue this work and spread it out across the UK. It will lead to more efficient, productive farms as new entrants will not have to go through so many years of trial and error, making the same mistakes that more experienced farmers and growers have made.

Many other countries take food production more seriously than we do in the UK, and their governments work to support new entrants and ensure that appropriate training and financial support is available for those who wish to receive it. We hope that the UK government will follow in their footsteps, but if not, we will continue to do what we can with limited time and funds.

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

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