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Friday, 15 April 2016

Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb

Look, I don't usually complain, however, this is getting out of hand.

As you know I have an allotment plot in a highly desirable part of the London Borough of Waltham Forest - right behind the majestic 1930's Town Hall.

I slave, day in, day out, season in, season out, in searing heat and bollock numbing cold to wrench some eatables from the clawing soil.

For 7 years now I have patiently toiled, Adam like, to put food on my family's table. The wife and I  actually; the cats are none too fussed about  pak choi or purple sprouting broccoli.

I have suffered. I have seen acres of potatoes succumb to blight, frost and death by drowning. I have watched as tomatoes have grown fat and turned a delightful red only to wither on the vine as some upstart of a virus has drained the life force out of them. Don't talk to me about the white rot on my onions....heart breaking. Once that hits the plot it's like living in the Dust Bowl in Cimmeron County, Oklahoma in the 30's.

I pride myself on my rhubarb. You might not think that's much to crow about, after all this particular vegetable is pretty neigh impossible not to grow. It comes from Siberia you know: from the steppes and is as hard as old nails. Commissar Putin eats it raw every morning and feeds the leaves to his pet Orc.

I have four plants, and at this time of year they are bustin' out all over: shooting out of the ground with lovely red, ribbed stalks topped off with massive leaves just daring one to pull them out of their sockets.

I don't force them: keep them in the dark and let them struggle to survive. I know some gardeners who do: it's inhumane. It's not natural, like wrapping feet in bandages so they can't grow or growing mushrooms down a disused coal mine which I understand is the practise up North. No, I let my rhubarb grow unhindered, able to express their innate rhubarbness as they greet the morning sun that occasionally splutters over my plot.

I am a generous person: that and the missus refusing to allow me to completely fill the freezer with this wonderful veg. I am also reluctant to let the stuff die on the vine so to speak. So I offer it to my neighbours - at what I believe is an extremely reasonable price - six sticks for a quid. A bargain I'm sure you'll agree.

Anyway, last month I culled my rhubarb herd and e-mailed my neighbours announcing the bargain of the week. I had loads of orders - well seven actually,  and I washed and tied up the lovely bunches and popping them in my Waitrose "Bag for Life" delivered them personally. I was greeted enthusiastically on every doorstep. I had brought delight and joy into the lives of my many neighbours. They were happy, I was happy - the world was in harmony.

Last weekend I was again at my toil, tilling the soil and I noticed that my little herd was once again full of leaf. I e-mailed my neighbours the joyous tidings. Once again I had a rapturous response.

Unfortunately, I had a rather busy week this week and was unable to get down to the allotment and harvest the crop. Already some of my neighbours were fretting at the bit, demanding to know why they had not received their six packs. I am also away this weekend in Oxford and would not be able to deliver until early next week.

Well, you would have thought the sky had fallen in. People were actually complaining that I'd ruined their Sunday lunch! One even sent a link to the rhubarb recipe he was going to prepare for his family at the weekend with the plaintive comment -"this is what I was looking forward to at the weekend".

I suggested that he and the others wrote in to  "You and Yours" and think on Helen Archer's predicament. That should provide them with some prospective.

I will, of course, go down to my allotment early next week and fulfil my commitment.

After all I have standards to maintain!

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