Harvest is now in full swing. The first of the wheat was combined over the weekend and today it’s being loaded into lorries to be taken to the central co-operative grain store. Larger, more efficient machinery means that the combine can cut four times the acreage in a day than we cut ten years ago so that the combine is now working here for days at a time, rather than weeks. These days are spread over a few weeks and in the gap until the rest of the wheat ripens, the hedges and verges around the already harvested fields will be cut back and cultivations will begin for next year’s crops.
If you listen to The Archers, you may be under the impression that during harvest farmers have time to sit in the pub having a pint with their leisurely meal. If only. All too often, lunch and supper are eaten on tractors as drivers wait on the field headland watching for the flashing light on the combine to indicate that the tank is full and signal to them to drive alongside so that it can unload into the trailer.
Balanced meals with at least five a day fruit and vegetables are cast aside in favour of food that can be eaten one-handed while driving across a rough field without making hands sticky and can rattle around in the tractor cab all day without turning to mush. Beautifully presented bento boxes decoratively laid out with delicate fish and salads are definitely not on the menu. Instead, solid, old-fashioned food seems to fit the bill and some days as I pack up pork pies with a tomato and a hard-boiled egg, it seems like stepping back thirty years and needs only a bottle of fizzy pop or ginger beer to complete the picture.
Soft Essex huffers are more popular than chewy sourdough and while the raspberries are plentiful, I’ve been making Raspberry Crumble cake to slip into evening coldboxes when energy and concentration levels dip. Slightly sharp, juicy raspberries contrast with chunks of white chocolate, flaked almonds and a buttery crumble topping to make a cake that can be cut into sizeable chunks and won’t fall apart like a delicate sponge cake.
Click here to find out how to make Essex Huffers
or make Harvest Bars with this recipe