This time of year we see the first of the European New Season Lemons from Spain and Sicily. After a few months of Southern Hemisphere fruit it is great to get fruit that is grown a little closer to home however there is one small problem and that is the colour, these early fruit are green.

In most of our minds lemons are yellow (and while we are on the subject limes are green) however this is not always the case but just what we are used to, (some varieties of limes turn yellow when ripe). We have even taken the popular names for these two fruit and attached them to colours, lemon and lime mean yellow and green to us all.

Lemon trees themselves are quite different to how most of us imagine fruit to grow, some varieties like the Femminello, which is Sicily’s most common lemon variety, are continuously blooming and in the correct conditions will blossom five times in a single year with each flowering producing its own fruit. From a fruit production point of view this is what gives us these early Verdelli lemons (they come mainly from a forced flowering the previous July – August).

So why are these lemons green and the next fruit, the Primofiore, more yellow, well it all comes down to temperature. As summer gives way to autumn the days and nights get colder but more importantly the temperature differential between day and night also gets greater. This temperature differential essentially shocks the fruit into turning yellow (there are of course all sorts of clever chemical processes taking place including chlorophyll in the fruit). Many people believe that a green lemon is not ripe but this is not necessarily true, often there is little difference in terms of juice and acidity levels (taste) of green and yellow fruit.

It is possible for us to replicate this natural process, some growers with the green fruit picked have been known to place the fruit in a fridge and then in a warmer warehouse. Repeating this process several times over a few days will cause the fruit to become more yellow. The ‘gassing’ of the fruit using ethylene along with careful temperature and humidity control will also de-green lemons however this is not a process that is generally used with organic fruit.

 

This week I ate my first Organic English Apple of the season, a Discovery Apple from Paul Ward an amazing Kent based organic grower. Every year it is the same, that first bite into a real apple with real flavour evokes such powerful memories. Transported back to my uncle’s farm in North Devon and their orchard of old apple trees, the taste explosion and that unmistakable tartness. All the apples we eat from January through to this wonderful time of year basically taste the same, Royal Gala, Braeburn, Pink Lady, all crisp, all juicy but all devoid of any real flavour. I am sure if the person writing this was a wine connoisseur then they would be using words like ‘complex’ and ‘with a hint of berries’ but I’m not one of those so all I can say is that they taste amazing.

What is even better about this first of the English Apples is that we still have Early Windsor, Scrumptious, Kids Orange, Lambourne, Red Pippin, Topaz and of course Egremont Russett’s (to name but a few of the 30 or more varieties we will have over the next 4 or 5 months) to look forward too.

I for one cannot wait, this is what the seasons are all about. Enjoying something this is available now, at it’s best now and then gone again until this time next year.

It seems a bit of an unfair battle really, one which the Bees have been loosing. Sense did finally look like it was prevailing with the EU introducing a total ban on the use of neonicotinoids in 2013 however recent events in the UK and particularly the actions of the NFU represents a big set back for British Bees. More worryingly there seems to be some fairly underhand dealings going on as highlighted by this very informative piece in last weeks Guardian.  click here to read article

I accept that there are two sides to all debates and scientists are very good at contradicting each other but in this case is it really worth the risk?

 

In a small section of the numerous hedgerows on Langridge Farm, David Goiver spotted these little beauties. Small Eggar Moth we think. They need 3 year old thorn bushes to build their silky den, so some sympathetic hedge management is required to allow then to do this. They are also very sensitive to insecticides, which haven’t been used for more than 3 decades at Langridge. We hope to grow this colony, but they can cocoon themselves in the hedge for 3 years or more before they fly. We can only hope to have the right habitat at the right moment and hope that the females, full of eggs, don’t fly too far.

Something we have to deal with from time to time in the world of organic vegetable is the question of bugs, these can range from a simple aphid through to a larger caterpillar.

The issue with organic farming is that obviously we can’t spray our vegetables to get rid of these ‘pests’ (of course a lot of them aren’t pests!) so we are reliant on other means of control. Our farmers play a huge part in this and good farming methods are at the forefront of this battle. After that, the final tool we have is observation. This itself has its own challenges especially when you chill the vegetables (necessary to help keep the produce at their best) and all the bugs hide to stay warm. We do carry out checks here at Langridge all the time however they do occasionally still slip through the net.

I remember visiting my Grandma and Aunties on the farm in Devon when I was a child (yes quite a few years ago) and seeing all the vegetables for dinner prepared and sitting in a large bowl of lightly salted water, ‘the most effective way of dealing with the unwanted bugs,’ I was told. A quick rinse off and then into the pot for cooking, as I also remember this involved mainly boiling for quite a while, no al dente vegetables back then

The 1st of March is the meteorological start of Spring although somehow with those strong winds making it so bitterly cold that is somehow hard to believe. Maybe by the 20th of the month, the astronomical start of spring, things may feel a little more spring like. Here’s hoping.