Sunday, 3 April 2011
Let's Go To San Francisco
Can you get attached to plants? This is the major question that has been going round my head yesterday and today. Let me explain.
Our allotment is a shifting stage on which nature's players strut their stuff and fade. Onions, garlic and shallots hang around for a while, bulking up, then looking pretty woebegone before giving themselves up to be hung in pretty bunches in the shed. Peas, those fabulous garden peas, so sweet, so tasty that they're lucky to reach the kitchen un-noshed, flourish and in a flash are gone. The broad bean, denizen of winter's frosted plots is now stepping into his flowery vest before plump, succulent beans appear to entice you with their joyous greenness and nutty sensation.
And then there's the early white sprouting brocolli. "Early" is a misomer. If you think "Early" has anything to do with speed of delivery from seed to dining table - you're wrong. "Early" to a broccoli means early in the year, the following year! Sprinkling the seeds in a seed tray in April, and you're in for a gestation period that makes that of a she elephant seem positively supersonic.
My problem started when, through no fault of my own, the labels got mixed up. Brussel Spouts , Cauliflower and Broccoli look pretty similar as juveniles. And they grow so, so very slowly. After a while the Cauliflower made themselves known, then around Christmas time the Brussels gave away those tell tale hints, but the Broccoli, I had no idea where or what they were.
These extremely large leafy things kept growing, extremely slowly. They looked great, like large, opened leaf cabbages. I asked the advice of ancient, well mudded, gardeners with gnarled hands and carrots stuck up their noses. They had no idea what my forest of greens were. They threw off the howling winds, the seven feet of sub Arctic snows and starving pigeons; but what they were they would not reveal.
Until early February, when from the joint between leaf and stem something started sprouting. Ever so small, ever so uncertain, but I had no doubt. I had discovered my early white sprouting broccoli! As February turned into March there could be no doubt. The lovely sprouty, flowery stuff kept on coming. Cut it and like the gorgon more sprouts appeared. And I had a forest of the stuff! We've feasted on broccoli everyday, in various guises, for more than a month.
But recently the torrent has turned to a trickle. And today I took my last cuttings. I need the space. The peas, cauliflower, radishes and lettuces are banging on the cold frame door to be planted out.
It took me half an hour to cut the remaining spears. I was saying goodbye to each of the plants individually. Not surprising is it. They've been part of my life longer than this Government and a darn sight better company.
They were with me when I dug up last year's potatoes, picked the runner beans, cut the asparagus and said farewell to our local fox. They witnessed the disaster that was my attempt to construct a greenhouse, and the planting of my new trees.
And tomorrow I'll grub them up. But not before I've set up a seed tray full of the promise of early purple sprouting broccoli. In time for February/March 2012. Isn't growing stuff fun!