Mind the Hungry Gap

Mind the Hungry Gap

May 02, 2024Calixta Killander

Well done everyone - we’ve almost made it to the end of the hungry gap. Running roughly through April and May, it’s a traditional period of hardship in the farming calendar when the winter vegetables have come to their end and the new seasons’ spring vegetables are still small and growing. Although there is much less for us to harvest during this time, the fields are still a hive of activity as our growing season gets underway and we’re busy cultivating and planting – especially now the rain has stopped!

Many people are surprised when they hear that the hungry gap is in early spring, guessing the leanest period would be in the dead of winter. But in winter, the root veg is still growing and farms’ stores are at their fullest. It isn’t until now that we start to see things run out.

It's easy to be ignorant of the hungry gap in these times of artificial plenty. Supermarkets air-freight from around the world and sell us “fresh” food which can be six months or even, in the case of apples, a year old. Produce is commonly stored in giant warehouses with reduced oxygen. These places keep fruit and veg in a state where it looks fresh but lots of the nutrients have gone, which is part of the reason industrial food has become so bland. The supermarkets have provided a year-round bounty of blandness where we eat strawberries in December and parsnips in summer, but eating local means getting back in touch with what’s in season and what nourishes us best.

The length of the hungry gap varies year to year and is largely weather dependent, based on how well the previous year’s crops grew and then stored, and how the spring planting has gone for the new crops. The cold and wet spring we’ve had so far has delayed the arrival of the new season crops like lettuces and brocolettes, while our stores of winter stalwarts like squash and beetroot are long gone.

We do have plenty of fresh seasonal herbs and edible flowers right now, while our alliums are kicking off with lush green garlic and wild garlic available. Alongside these at this slim time of year we source beetroot, asparagus and leeks from our neighbour farms, while staples like potatoes, carrots, cabbages and onions are temporarily coming via local suppliers and organic farms further afield in the UK and Europe.

There's also a 'flower gap' - the first incredible rush of tulips and ranunculus is over and now we await the first summer cosmos, dahlias and sunflowers.

Each warm, sunny day brings more growth in our fields and tunnels and in a few short weeks our spring plantings of beans, beets, courgettes and cucumber, summer cabbages and kales, lettuces, peppers, chillies, tomatoes and aubergines will all start to be ready to harvest and Flourish’s summer produce will be back with a bang.

Baby cavolo nero plants growing by the day

Looking ahead,

Team Flourish

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