Food & Growing
Expect the unexpected when it comes to weather is the lesson for this month! After all our angst about endless rainy cold summers, our main issue in the garden is WATERING at the moment. How much to water, how much to leave the plants to extend their roots down to damper soil, when to water and how to find more sustainable ways of sourcing our water rather than drawing too much on our bore-hole? Solar batteries to charge a pump to a large header tank maybe? No answers as such, but all work in progress …
At the moment, our salad leaves are doing pretty well, mostly outdoors. Certain varieties are bolting but others are much slower to bolt and staying good and productive. Our favourites are Nasir, Grenoble Red, Little Gem, Nymans and a great Italian Mix from Seeds of Italy. Peas and broad beans are plentiful and our first courgettes are coming through. We have harvested our garlic from the poly tunnels, now drying med-style on racks in the sun and we have started pulling up our beds of onions. We had a great strawberry crop, which is now starting to slow down to be replaced by an abundance of black currants, red currants, raspberries & loganberries. Our globe artichokes have been great and the first crop of jerusalem artichokes (thanks to Ted) are 6 feet tall. And we are hoping for our first red tomato tomorrow! Our basil is looking leafy & ready for pesto and we ate our first cucumber yesterday!
So, if you would like to come and get some salad straight from the garden, plus anything else we have a surplus of, we are having open mornings at Cotna on Tuesdays and Thursdays – we would love to see you, let you have a nose around and buy some cost-price salad from us!
Summer Salad Leaves – Tuesday & Thursday Mornings - Cotna Barton, Cotna Lane behind Gorran Church (turn right down track when road forks at grassy field)
At last! Mid-April and it feels like we are back to some more normal weather, with South Westerly winds, warmer & wet days with sunshine in between. After a false start to Spring, (the highlight must have been on our Willow Weaving Course on 17th March), winter came back with a vengeance. Cold, dessicating North Easterlies, exactly what the garden & plants don’t need to put on their spring growth. Now everything seems about a month behind: grass is brown as the end of summer and we’ve resorted to covering beds with clear poly & woven sheeting to warm up the ground before we start planting. Still at least we don’t live in the North where farmers were digging their sheep & lambs out of 15 ft snowdrifts. Just a bit more flooding for us down in Cornwall! Seaweed collecting continued and we watched with interest as the sand disappeared from Gorran & Vault beaches to reveal rocks we had never seen before.
Meanwhile the polytunnels continued to produce plenty of salad leaves, about 10-12lb per week, and we keenly await the appearance of our first asparagus spears. We had our first wild food foraging walk of the season and managed to cook an absolute feast Italian style – nettle ravioli & wild garlic butter, watercress bruschetta, a micro leaf salad of chickweed, wood sorrel, hedge garlic & hawthorn shoots, rice pudding & caramelised alexander stems. All amazing greens to seek out in the long hungry gap. The early seeds and onion sets are planted and tomato seedlings are almost ready to pot on. So fingers crossed for continued warmth and occasional light showers for a while!
The greenhouse renovation has started thanks to fantastic Paul, our WWOOFer from Bristol. Info on WWOOF: Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. People from all over the UK and around the world come to help smallholders like us in return for food and accommodation. It’s a great scheme, which benefits us hugely. It has brought things on at Cotna in a way which would not have been possible otherwise, as well as introducing us to so many lovely and interesting people from places like Italy, Chile, South Africa, Australia and Latvia. So if you meet a foreigner in the Barley Sheaf, chances are they are helping us at Cotna – you could even buy them a pint, that is if they are not behind the bar!
So finally, things we look forward to … watching our 1-day old chicks grow, the arrival of the first swallows, our Dawn Chorus woodland walk with Martin next week and our basket weaving course next Sunday!
If you would like any info on other future events please keep an eye out for our posters around the village or have a look at our website, mail us or give us a call.
It’s been hard hasn’t it, these last few months? We were so relieved to have the cold winds, and clearer skies to dry out the muddy, drowning grass and let us get into the woodland for next year’s firewood. But mid-March with more cold weather on the way feels like enough already! The poor daffs don’t know what to do, the watercress has been burnt by the frost and the Gunnera leaves that were looking so strong have gone brown. This time last year we were basking in 20 degrees on the beaches! Still, those easterly winds and the high tides have brought us a great harvest of seaweed and we have been making the most of the dry weather to get the quad-bike down to Port Mellon and Gorran Haven beach to fork up mounds of the stuff. Some has gone straight onto the asparagus and artichoke beds; a good idea? We weren’t sure but have gone for it anyway. Adam the Gardener says in MARCH First Week – profitable asparagus bed that while sandy soil is good for drainage, a dressing of salt in April is good on an established bed. And seaweed ticks all those boxes! Apart from that, we have layered the seaweed liberally in the compost bins and also laid it on the newly cleared ground for future veg beds and covered it in Mypex to mulch and enrich the soil.
Lesson in healthy soil: we are organic here at Cotna but not officially so – in fact, organic produce can be as depleted as any other, it just means that there are no added chemicals on it. What healthy fruit and veg really need is a high mineral content, not just for abundant growth but also for the real health benefits, as well as delicious flavour. Seaweed contains ten to twenty times the minerals of land plants and an abundance of vitamins and other elements necessary for our metabolism – in particular iodine, calcium and iron as well as Vitamin B12. It therefore follows that plants grown in seaweed will absorb these minerals and we in turn absorb them from the lettuces, other veg and fruit grown here. So seaweed is the best thing that can happen to our gardens really!
We have also been piling on layers of nicely composted leaf mould (many thanks to William and Arlene Fullerton at Cotna House J). This will improve the structure of our soil, and with the vital help of the micro-organisms, bacteria and fungi that are in this compost the plants roots will be able to absorb all those lovely minerals. Nutrient rich, alive soil is what we want and first to benefit will be the onion sets we are planting out as I write.
Other jobs have included planting out new apple trees and right now we are knocking willow cuttings into the ground to extend the range of coloured willow and dogwood around the place. Last Sunday was our first event of the season; Willowcraft for Gardens with Sian Hill, a great introduction into weaving trellises and obelisks for training up sweet peas, beans and other climbers. Hopefully she will be back to do a basket-weaving course soon. Other events to follow will be the popular Forage Cook and Dine on Sunday 7th April with Rachel Lambert, and a Dawn Chorus Birdwatch walk with bird expert Martin Rule on Saturday 20th April, followed by a legendary home-produced Cotna breakfast – free range eggs, sourdough bread and other such delights! If you would like to book on any of these or future events please keep an eye out for our posters around the village or have a look at our website, mail us or give us a call.
Cotna’s speciality is leaves; various types of lettuce, rocket, watercress, oriental leaves, spinach, herbs … we are well-known for our beautiful seasonal salad bags with herbs and flowers!
Seasonal Vegetables & Fruit
We grow other delicious seasonal vegetables & fruit; apples, quinces, blackcurrants, strawberries, tomatoes, aubergines, chillies, garlic, courgettes, squashes, celery, cucumbers etc. which we supply to our guests & households locally
At Cotna we are slowly expanding our range of mouth-watering hand-made artisan foods: pesto, chutney, jams, marmalade, harissa, honey, fruit vinegars & dressings
Better than organic!
Why does Cotna food taste so good? Because it is even better than organic!! Most food in Britain is grown on minerally depleted soil, which reduces the nutrient levels in the food. It is usually old and has normally travelled hundreds of miles, up & down the country to get to the consumer. Our food is carefully sown, grown & picked by hand, then locally delivered. It is grown in composted, mineral & nutrient-rich earth: we use no sprays or chemicals, it is seasonal, it is slow, it is real food!
Delicious home-grown food
Food is a crucial part of Cotna life; the growing, production, cooking and communal eating of it. As a visitor you would be welcome to join us for meals or have them delivered to the barn, enjoy our seasonal produce to prepare your own meals, or be completely independent. This can be arranged prior to or during your visit. Our food is vegetarian and has a gourmet international feel. We can cater for vegans or provide a juicer for raw food diets. Wild-food foraging walks with a cooking demo & meal can also also be arranged.
Where to find our food
‘… particularly impressed with the unexpected effect of wild garlic! Sourdough is the best in the west!’ (John, Bristol)
‘I am now addicted to your tomato chutney so I have to come back!’ (Abbi, Cambridge)
‘… gourmet international food, yum ’ (Debbie, The Pilgrim’s Way, Spain)
‘Sara is a master breadmaker too!’ (Pam, London)