Seven Flavours of Autumn

2 Oct 2019 | 0 comments

Blackberries

Blackberries must be the best known wild-gathered berry. Of course, there are plenty of cultivated ones now available, but there is a far greater sense of satisfaction if you pick your own in the dappled autumn sun and return home with stained hands and lips. Blackberries are a good source of Vitamin C and provide a fair amount of iron. The blackberry leaf and root are powerful astringents and the berries are used to treat diarrhoea and anaemia.

Figs

Figs originated in Southwest Asia, and they now grow throughout the Mediterranean and surprisingly well in Britain. The medicinal use of figs is almost as ancient as the plant itself. For centuries, figs have been recommended to restore energy and vitality. Pliny wrote, ‘Figs are restorative and the best food that can be taken by those who are brought low by a long sickness’. They can be turned into a variety of dishes, but frankly they are delicious just the way they are.

Elderberry

Elderberries are another autumn fruit dripping from the tree to gather by the basket. Elderberry vinegar added to warm water makes a delicious healthy winter drink. They strengthen the immune system and reduce the severity and duration of colds and flu. Elderberries are a rich source of Vitamins A, B and C, potassium and antioxidants. Some research suggests they may be better than blueberries at fighting free radicals.

Fennel seed

Fennel seeds are one of the nine sacred Anglo Saxon herbs symbolising longevity, courage and strength. I love the fresh green seeds before they are dried; they add an aromatic burst of flavour to food. Fennel seeds are a potent medicine containing loads of minerals and vitamins including copper, iron, zinc, calcium and Vitamins A, E and C plus B complex. They have long been used as a remedy for indigestion and relief of colic pain in newborn babies.

Apple

Fresh-picked apples are one of the evocative smells of autumn. Many apples, kept in a dry room, will keep into the following year. Apples are packed with disease-fighting vitamins and antioxidants. Juicing apples from time to time is fine, but eating them in their whole form will give you a synergistic blend of nutrients and fibre the way nature intended, providing you with well-researched health benefits.

Pumpkin

There are many different varieties of pumpkins; some are tiny and nestle in the palm of your hand, others are too big to move single-handed. Halloween jack-o’-lanterns make pumpkins synonymous with autumn. All the scooped-out flesh can be turned into endless dishes, from soups and risotto to muffins and pies. The fruit is a good source of Vitamin B complex as well as many antioxidant vitamins such as A, C and E. Pumpkin is also a rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorous.

Rosehip

Like jewels, rosehips cascade down the bushes in the autumn. These oval, red fruits of wild roses have long been used as food and medicine. Turn them into chutneys, jams, syrups, vinegars, wine and teas. Rosehip tea was traditionally used for the common cold and locally for inflamed or bleeding gums. During the Second World War, many tonnes of rosehips were turned into syrup to provide Vitamin C.

Extract from ‘Living Food: A Feast for Soil & Soul’ by Daphne Lambert, published by Unbound, 2016

Daphne Lambert is a founding member of Greencuisine Trust, an educational charity that engages with individuals, organisations and communities in order to rethink food. Daphne teaches seasonal Living Nutrition weekend courses at Trill Farm. 

Visit the course page to find out more about Living Nutrition Courses run by Daphne.

Growing Heritage Barley

2 Oct 2019 | 0 comments



Last year we set up an organic press and brewhouse at Haye Farm, 3 miles down the road from Trill Farm, called Gilt & Flint, which produces organic apple juice and two types of beer; a pale ale and an IPA. I wanted this business to fit into our farm’s circular system, so growing barley to produce the beer and to use its by-products on the farm seemed common sense. We didn’t have the land at Haye Farm on which to grow so were delighted when Romy offered us three fields at Trill Farm. 

We selected two varieties of barley; Ducksbill and Golden Pheasant, which we planted over 23 acres. These are both long-strawed heritage varieties which were developed before the use of chemicals, so are much better suited to an organic system. Their height also makes them better competition against weeds so the crop needs less maintenance. In addition, they produce more straw than modern varieties, which is a useful by-product, although not our main reason for growing them.

The majority of the grain we harvest will be malted to make beer. The grains will be floor-malted in the traditional manner by Warminster Maltery. During this process the grains are sprouted on the floor, turned a few times, dried, and then ground and milled to make the malt. After being used to make our beer, the malt will go on to feed our herd of Oxford Sandy and Black pigs, and so will have a dual use. The process of malting actually makes better and more nutritious pig food than the original grain.

The straw will be used for winter bedding for our herd of Devon Red cattle as well as any sheep we bring in this winter when the weather gets bad. Once used, the straw and muck will be collected and spread back onto the fields at Trill Farm for fertility, thus completing the system.

In additional to the beer, a proportion of our grain will be milled to use as a barley component in bread making. Next year we plan to grow a few varieties of wheat for milling to expand on this area as I have joined a group of bakers, millers and farmers based in the southwest who are working with heritage grains.

As ever in a first year, there were a few hurdles to get through. In our rush to harvest before the bad weather we made the straw when it was still a little green and the weeds had not had time to dry out completely. This also meant the moisture content of the grain was slightly high, so we had to dry it out, which was a bit of a challenge. 

However, overall it was a great success. We intend to learn from our experiences this year and grow barley at Trill Farm again in 2020. We will grow on a similar scale, but may try a few different varieties as well as some wheat varieties.

Harry and Emily took over Haye Farm in 2014 aiming to create a sustainable food system of mixed organic pasture, arable and vegetable, soft fruit and herb growing. As well as growing barley at Trill Farm, Harry also grazes sheep and cattle here.

Diversity in the Garden

2 Oct 2019 | 0 comments

Autumn brings us the chance to take a deep breath and reflect on what we have achieved through the year. It often feels like a sudden change from the intensity of summer work in the garden to the slower pace of autumn and the adjustment can be quite difficult at times. However, it is absolutely essential for us all to slow down a little and feel a bit less pressured.

It is a time for us to look at what has worked well and what not so well so that we can make improvements to our crop plans for next year. We make notes throughout the year rather than relying on our memories. The planning takes a while but is so necessary to try to get the most out of the garden, through putting in different successions, allowing space for seed crops and ensuring that we continue to try out new and old varieties. 

A big part of what we do is ensuring there is a great diversity in the garden, whether that is through the crops that we grow, the varieties that we choose or the work that we do and the way we manage the land. We are not interested in just growing one crop or one variety, and although we focus on salad leaves as our main crop, we grow a wide range of other crops and varieties. This results in an interesting place to work as well as a garden that is home to a diverse range of habitats. 

We also choose to cultivate the land in different ways, but generally use techniques that minimise soil disturbance, which will lead to stronger soil health, improved drainage and healthier plants. 

Producing seed crops fits into this beautifully as it not only means that we are maintaining varieties that are suited to our soil and growing conditions, but also allows for plants to reach their full maturity and in doing so providing nectar and shelter for many beneficial insects that fit into the ecology of the garden. 

This year we have produced red mizuna, Navet de Nancy turnip, Painted Lady sweet peas, Beauregarde purple snow peas, many varieties of tomatoes, a couple of lettuce varieties and Black Hungarian chillies, and we have Golden Chard and Tender and True parsnips in the ground awaiting selection in the winter (we will then replant the selected plants and allow them to flower before harvesting and processing the seed). 

Not only does this work help to maintain genetic diversity by keeping some of these old varieties alive, but it also challenges us as growers to learn new skills and in doing so keeps our work interesting and diverse.

Ash and Kate run Trill Farm Garden, supplying the Old Dairy Kitchen and many other local restaurants with fresh, seasonal and varied produce, employing and training many people as they grow. 

Visit the course page to find out more about Landworkers' Skills Courses run by Ash.

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