Harvest begins (400 days to go)
by Max Akroyd
A new word for this year is entering the family’s lexicon: “harvest”.
Unlike flower growers, who would be mortally depressed if nothing had happened before the end of April, vegetable growers have to wait patiently to enjoy the rewards of their efforts. You can buck this trend and eat leaves sown in January undercover. Or take a leaf (so to speak) out of the flower gardeners book and eat the flower heads of biennials like brocolli. Or the shoots of big-rooted perennials like rhubarb and asparagus.
If you’re trying to eke out nutrition from your land these strategies become an obsession. The disaster that was last year means few crops here derived from the biennials or perennials – lots of rhubarb, but that’s about it. The contents of the polytunnel have, therefore, been the mainstay of our garden diet so far. A salad bowl full of mixed leaves each and every day:
Any other harvest at this early stage is a source of considerable enthusiasm. So the cutting of our first cabbage of the year was a big deal! In October last year I sowed a range of Portuguese kales and cabbages – I understand they call them couves. One day I’ll disentangle this part of the cabbage family tree. I’m growing them alongside collards to determine if they are indeed the same. One thing’s for sure, these ancient plants have been adopted by diverse cultures and are valued by people with a lot of manual work to do! This was the couve tronchuda I harvested yesterday.
It was a bit immature size-wise but tasted lovely and sweet and there’s lots more out there – so why wait for the caterpillars? All in all a perfect partner to the omnivore’s other homegrown food of choice, pork.
The feeling of easy abundance doesn’t really kick in though until the new potatoes arrive in June. In the meantime the unrequited labour continues: this musing about esoteric cabbages disguises the fact that I’ve spent the whole morning weeding the beetroot bed and hoeing the broad beans.