In balance: the cabbage white butterfly

Over the years the Harvest farm shop has had all sorts of visitors from the animal kingdom including a goldcrest bird, duckling, a frog and various moths and butterflies. Today in the shop we had 2 visitors from the local world of insects, winged cousins, a small cabbage white butterfly and a close relative of butterflies, a poplar hawk moth.

The impressive hawk moth was brought into the shop for an identification by a friend of Harvest and the butterfly emerged from the batch of kale delivered this week.

There are about 59 uk butterfly species but there are an incredible 2500 species of uk moth with the hawk moths being amongst the largest.

Cabbage white are considered by gardeners pests of brassica, or the cabbage/mustard family.

A few caterpillars of both butterflies and moths can cause some damage to leafy crops, It is the time of year when cabbage white seek out members of the brassica family on which to lay their eggs. There are 2 cabbage white butterfly species which are considered pests of brassica, the small white and large white. Gardeners and growers are most familiar with the large white as they lay numerous eggs which hatch out into greenish caterpillars, these eating machines can render a cabbage, kale or cauliflower looking like a skeleton, In most cases the damage is brief and the plants recover fully after the caterpillars pupates.

Organic and agro-ecological farmers and gardeners do not use chemicals such as powerful pesticides which also harm friendly wildlife and the health of the soil, instead they build good soil health and provide habitats and wildlife corridors for nature and the many predators of pests, particularly encourage parasitic wasp which seek out their caterpillar prey, the cabbage white caterpillar and lay their eggs on them. The wasp larvae hatch and begin to feed on the hosts insides of the caterpillar avoiding its vital organs until it is ready to morph into an adult wasp when it eats its way out and pupates. The predated caterpillar will never reach the butterfly stage so helping to keep things in balance.

The female cabbage white locates the brassica host food plant to lay its eggs by tasting for the mustard taste of the plant with its feet often flitting to a few cabbage plants together to choose a site to lay its eggs. Brassica planted with other plant species in a polyculture can confuse the cabbage white and reduce potential damage. If the cabbage plant is established and healthy, it will fully recover after being decimated by caterpillars. Gardeners who want to avoid any damage to the cabbage patch often use a physical barrier such as netting or enviromesh to keep pests off. Beware tho, netting can be lethal for other wildlife such as hedgehogs who will easily get entangled in netting and die.

Another predator to the cabbage white caterpillar is the less known carnivorous spiked shieldbug, the bug devours its victims by sucking out its body juices through its spiked mouth part.

Moths and butterflies are a vital food source for bats. Moths, butterflies and caterpillars are eaten by many other animals including other insects, spiders, frogs, birds, toads, lizards and mammals such as bats, hedgehogs & shrews. It may come as a surprise that the large cabbage white butterflies have evolved to be toxic to most birds and this is why robins, blackbirds etc leave them alone so this is why the parasitic wasp is an important predator.

As with almost all garden friends, one of the best habitats for wildlife is a patch of undisturbed, unmown nettle patches, all the better if there’s a pile of rotting logs among it.

One butterfly which often gets mistaken for a cabbage white is the orange tip butterfly which appears in the spring. The food plant of the orange tip caterpillar is the pretty meadow flower the cuckoo flower. The male has the bright orange tips to its wings where this species gets its name from but the female has plain black and white wings.

So much of the natural world’s ecosystems have been damaged by industrial farming and the over use of chemicals that insects have been in decline, Harvest Workers Coop only work with farmers and producers who farm organically without chemicals and without artificial fertilisers and who care for the environment.

Cooking Workshops with Katie and Crow

We are really pleased to be working with Kate from Katie and Crow Originally this was to be a series of cooking workshops in the lovely EcoHub however Kate has responded to the Covid lockdown and gone online.

Kate’s workshops are always interesting and full of skills, tips and seasonal knowledge. As she says “We love to share our passion for food and the knowledge we’ve accrued so far. Learn, make, eat, and take home enthusiasm and some new kitchen kit to help you get started” Her passion certainly comes across in these videos.

Look out for more online workshops and as soon as we can restarting our hands on in the kitchen workshops.

Get started on preserving the humble onion!
Create something special from what is left in the Veg Bag

Education and Community Workshops .. on line and active :-)

We want to keep our community work active even though we can’t meet face to face.

We will be posting our workshops and events online. We are learning as we go but we hope you like them!

Look out here for the links to go live!

Coming up …

Film Show : 2040 An online screening of 2040 with a discussion afterwards. Sunday May 3rd FREE event book a ticket here See you there!

Growing Plot to Cooking Pot

Gluten Free Pizza

Gluten Free Pizza has been created by Sara from the Harvest Workers Coop! ...
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Mother Hubbard Hash Browns

Mother Hubbard Hash Browns The wonderful Kate from Katie and Crow is cooking with vegetables left in the bottom of ...
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Pricking Out

Your germinated seeds are all squashed up in the tray? Time to prick out! Growing Plot Workshop - Pricking Out ...
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Fermenting Onions

Fermenting and Preserving Onions The first in our series of Cooking Pot workshops. This is by Kate from Katie and ...
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Potato Planting

Potato Planting the no dig way - Cooking ideas - Spanish Omelette Recipe Growing Plot Workshop ... Potato Planting Cooking ...
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Seasonal Family Workshops

Family Workshop Summer Buzz

Welcome to Summer Buzz - Saturday 25th July 2020 Thank you for visiting. We’re normally in Okehampton’s wonderful EcoHub every ...
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Family Workshop Summer Growth

Welcome to Summer Growth - Saturday June 27th 2020 Thank you for visiting. We're normally in Okehampton's wonderful EcoHub every ...
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Family Workshop Spring Blossom

Welcome to Spring Blossom - Saturday May 30th 2020 Thank you for calling by May's Family Workshop. We're normally in ...
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Family Workshop Spring Leaves

Welcome to the Spring Leaves Family Workshop Thank you for calling by our second online family workshop. We hope you ...
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Family Workshop Spring Seeds

Welcome to the Family Workshop Thank you for calling by our first online family workshop. We're normally in Okehampton's wonderful ...
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Thank you to Learn Devon for funding the Family Workshops and Growing Plot Project


Thank you to Okehampton United Charities for funding our education and community program of activity

Growing Plot to Cooking Pot


We are having to change the way we do our education and community work check here for more details!

On Line Workshops

Growing Plot Workshop : Potato Planting Martin and Sara with potato planting out at the farm and some ideas for Growing Plot to Cooking Pot

This project is delivered by The Harvest Workers’ Coop and is funded by Learn Devon

Learn Devon is funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency and European Social Fund. Courses subject to terms and conditions.

Growing Plot to Cooking Pot – A New Project

Living on a budget but also want to eat good, wholesome food?
Unemployed? On benefits?
Recovering from ill health?
Then this new project from Harvest Workers Coop could be for YOU!

How it will work?

Growing Plot to Cooking Pot is fully funded by Learn Devon.
It is based on afternoon sessions with a focus on learning in a relaxed atmosphere.

We will begin with welcome and a taster of what food is in season followed by two practical activities. We will finish by sharing the food we have prepared

Practical Session – Cooking Pot

Looking at cooking skills and recipe ideas

Practical Session – Growing Plot

Outside working on practical projects


What we will be doing?

Cooking Pot Skills
• Using kitchen tools
• Preparing Vegetables
• Using Edible Weeds
• Making Sauerkraut
• Preserving techniques
• One Pot Meals
• Salads and Dressings
• Sprouting grains and pulses

Growing Plot Skills
• Preparing a bed
• Raising & planting out seedlings
• Container Growing
• Making a Mushroom Kit
• Growing Micro Greens
• Making Cuttings
• Composting
• Seasonal Planting
• Potato Sacks

…… and more!

We are VERY happy to include skills that are important for you! Do talk to us.

When will it take place?

Wednesday afternoons
1.30 – 4.30

19th 26th February 4th March
29th April 6th 13th May
24rd June 1st 8th July

You can book for a block of three or come to see what it is like. Book by phone, email or pop into the Harvest Shop.

Where will it take place?

The Eco Hub
Courtney Road,
(next to the College)

Core Skills

Growing Plot to Cooking Pot will have Literacy and Maths skills embedded in the practical activity. Measuring time, length and seeds alongside recipes, stories and nutrition facts.

We will be inviting local people using these skills of food production in their line of work to come and talk to the group about their area of employment. Growers, Cooks, shop keepers and more!

There is possible financial support for Child Care and Travel for learners who need this.

Talk to your Employment Coaches, Tutors and Support Workers about how this course could work for you.