41 weeks to go…

by Max Akroyd

Firstly, apologies. Another new look. But the blog is just about a year old around now and we think this theme has all the emphasis in the right places. But this may be the aesthetics of the chronically sleep-deprived, so please speak if you feel differently…

So far it’s only grey today. None of the promised rain bedding in the seeds which are presently rattling around in their drills… I’ve dug over most of the former cauliflower bed which, in itself, is space enough to make the contents of even the most generous seed packet look a bit laughable. Space fills up better with transplants from modules…

The intended crop is the chicory family. You’re on the stranger shores of vegetable gardening with this lot: even the name is a mix up. I understand they’re endives in France and the US, but I’m not talking about those tough, green lettuce-y things you have to blanch, or the witloof chicons which supermarkets sell in plastic pouches, or the cutting/leaf chicories you can sow in January – think radicchio and we’re in the right area. There’s a whole range of heading chicories in an array of colours designed to be illuminated in low, autumn sun. They make a perfect counterpoint to a vinaigrette too…

Their big, dandelion roots necessitate a direct sowing. Beyond this cultivation of heading chicories becomes a bit foggy. Even the seed company doesn’t care to tell you that the older varieties require cutting back to encourage the head to form, like a witloof but in the open air. So, in the past, I’ve had a mystifying range of results compounded by my perennial failure to take proper notes!  With space aplenty, I’m going to effect an organised sowing on a big scale in an effort to finally solve the chicory mystery…

*

Away from the garden, it’s a case of sweating it out on crowded beaches… Hard times!

*

It’s been a year of strange harvests and this week has been no exception. The first of the parsnips were pulled and provided a good helping for six:

But the eating was disappointing, too floury, which I’m attributing to the dry weather.

Despite being flattened by frosts and dessicated by drought, the potato yield has been pretty good – albeit comprising lots of small tubers. The top growth on the specimens grown through plastic suggested the pattern would be repeated therein. Today was the moment of unveiling and a surprise awaited the many little hands delving into the soil – fewer but bigger spuds!

Chips for tea! 

*

Finally they’ve arrived:

Factoring in the cost of the polytunnel, they probably cost about 250€ each. Never mind that, or the fact that the dreaded blight is now taking hold under plastic: the texture and taste, and the potential for eating so well when I cultivate them better next year, is compensation enough. What price hope?