News from the herb field: November
Thursday 22 November 2018
What a year it has been in the herb field - the weather has really pushed us to our limits! Last winter was never ending, spring was wet and cold, and nothing was growing or germinating - making us about 6 weeks behind in the field. But then it was all change, and not only did everything catch up, some plants were ready for harvest a month early! More from our Herb Field Manager Sarah below.
"It has been a great year for the Elderflower and Hawthorn flower, both of which were out of this world. The Artichokes really suffered and did not like the snow. The Artichoke plants were half the size that they normally are, so we weren’t able to harvest as much leaf as usual. Of course herbs love the sun, but even they were struggling in the heat of the summer and going to seed very quickly which meant that we didn’t get as many harvests as we usually do from some crops. It has, however, been a fantastic year for seed saving - we have saved a lot of seed this year! It’s very hard to source organic and biodynamic medicinal herb seeds, so every year we try to save as much as possible from the field and this year it’s been abundant.
The lady birds were very late this year and some of the herbs suffered their absence early on with a very bad aphid problem. The dry hot weather meant that the slugs were not an issue, we’ve hardly had to mow the grass, and the weeds haven’t growing back so quickly - which is fantastic. There have been quite a lot of changes in the herb field over the year; We have a new drying barn, and we now have 3 new huge compost bays which will help us to produce a lot more compost for the field and provide a bigger place for our grass snakes to lay their eggs.
It is now the root harvesting time of year. I have found that every year it seems to get later as we are having such mild autumns now, but in general we harvest the roots from November through to February. We harvest the roots after all the aerial parts have died back so that all the goodness and energy of the plant is secured in its roots. Root crops need to be in the ground for at least 3 years before being harvested so the roots has time to grow and develop. There are of course exceptions to the rule and they are the biennial root crops such as Angelica and Burdock. These are harvested in their first year of growth, because in the second year of growth they will flower and set seed - losing the energy this way, rather than storing it in the roots.
We’ve had fantastic team in the field this year with WWOOFERS from Holland, France, Hungary and the UK - and Sianne our first ever seasonal worker. A HUGE thank you to them for all their hard work, early starts, endless watering and great company.
Who knows what this winter will throw at us… but at the moment we’re enjoying the stunning autumn colours. One thing is for sure when you are working outside with nature and in the elements - there is never a dull moment!"