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How a mild autumn is confusing our crops

British-grown greens are booming with prolific availability and large sizes after a mild Autumn has fast-tracked the growing season and countered the effects of the summer drought. However the unseasonally warm weather is confusing our crops.

All cabbage varieties, including Savoy, red, green and kale, are growing prolifically across the South West of England, where temperatures have been unseasonably warm.

Growing conditions are good, but they’re too good.

It is welcome relief after growers faced widespread crop losses across the summer for both existing crops and the next season’s seedlings. But there are now fears that consumers will not be able to keep up with the huge supply (known as flushing) of British-grown brassicas.

“Now it’s so mild, everything is just booming. Everything is coming at the same time. It’s across the entire range, so caulis, green and red cabbage, leeks and kale,” said Steve Monk, at organic veg box company Riverford. “The quality is really good, it’s just the sheer volume.”

Cabbages, cauliflowers, kale and leeks are all likely to be much bigger than usual as well as highly abundant over the next four to five weeks.

David Camp, regenerative organic farmer at Daynes Farm, south Devon, said he is seeing “a glut of top quality, big brassicas” due to the mild autumn.

“Growing conditions are good, but they’re too good,” he said. “The temperature has been several degrees higher than expected, and we’ve had good levels of sunshine. The only issue is they are quite a meal – you do get good value providing you can eat a whole cabbage.”

Camp said the summer drought has also contributed to strong autumnal growth, because stressed plants put down long roots to reach moisture during water shortages. Then when it does rain, they are better able to absorb nutrients and moisture, leading to prolific growth.

“Now they’re growing on at a phenomenal rate because they’re very healthy plants,” he said.

The British Savoy cabbage season usually runs until around February, but a second wave of growth may not appear after the autumn flush, according to Camp. “Eat them while they’re here,” he said. “Quality is very good as we are peak season for brassicas. There’s definitely no need for imports. Getting enough sold seems to be the problem, not the pickers.”

In other parts of the country, including Cambridgeshire, a shortage of pickers has meant that cabbages will be oversized as there are not enough people to pick the crop at the time it is ready. French-grown Butternut squash are also set to be extremely large due to warmer than average temperatures.


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