I have been doing this gardening thing all wrong. For years! A simple action, that I had been putting off for ages, to write on the bags of potatoes the best way to eat them, resulted in the most delicious crispy oven baked chips I have ever had the privilege of cooking and eating. Ordinarily my chip making endeavours would result in soggy chips that break up before they are anywhere near ready. So the family get served soggy, slightly crisp unintentional mashed potato. My mashed spuds on the other hand have always been lumpy as they seemed unwilling to succumb to the will of the masher!
Those chips – the awesome ones, got me thinking. For one, Ilam Hardy are a great spud to chip with, but how was it that that variety came to be in my garden in the first place? Its coveted position in my garden was determined by gardener thinking and not the main reason to grow veggies. The real reason to grow veggies seems to have completely passed me by and I never even noticed. Veggies are grown to be eaten and enjoyed as they are way better than anything that can be purchased as they have been harvested with food minutes not miles. I know exactly what I have done to them as they grow and what has or hasn’t been sprayed on them. Home grown veggies taste fabulous.
But my decisions on what to grow in my garden have been based, not on what I want to eat, but on what I want to grow. I love the excitement of watching something I’ve never grown before unfurl into something amazing, and am constantly on the lookout for ‘different from the ordinary’ vegetables to grow. I even have a bed entirely dedicated to the new and exciting. I call it my ‘odds and sods’ bed. (Although it often ends up filled with must haves like tomatoes and peppers that just don’t fit in their own beds.) Kohlrabi was my latest find and has now claimed a permanent spot in my brassica collection.
I grow things that are expected to be grown in a veggie garden – like beans for instance. We really don’t like green beans all that much, but my gardener sensibilities urge me to plant them (and a lot of them) year after year as a ‘proper’ veggie patch wouldn’t be complete without them. I have kind of compromised on this one and the inner cook has won a small battle and half the bed this year was given over to kidney beans, so we can have chilli con carne in the winter.
But I have Jerusalem artichoke in my garden as a few years ago it was the ultimate must have to grow for a mid-winter harvest. I’ve had them a few years now, but only actually eaten them a couple of times. I’m not sure I actually like them – they have an acquired earthy taste. As for the globe artichokes – they are nice as a treat, but are hardly an everyday food, especially as Tim the Helper is quite severely allergic to them. Having said that – it is nice to have them, as I would never actually buy one to cook with.
So if we go back to my potatoes for a minute. I grew four varieties this year, as I do each year as that is the amount of space I have for them. So when it comes time to select my spuds I look up all the ones available and I select them based upon the length of time it takes them to grow so we have some early ones and then each variety matures across the season so when we finish eating the first lot then there is another lot to work through and so on, until we have eaten them up. I never really considered that they have different cooking preferences. It was all about having a well-functioning garden, and not necessarily a well-functioning kitchen.
If I got my potatoes so wrong – are there other things in my garden that really don’t deserve to be there? I have 17 (at best estimate) varieties of tomato in my garden, with about two of each – give or take a couple. For a start: who needs that many tomatoes? Also I grew the Tigerella ones last year and while extremely prolific, the flavour was pretty average and if push came to shove it would never make the favourites list, yet they looked different, which made them cool, and so by way of their superficial skin deep attributes they ended back on the must have list. I also found the black Indigo Rose, the must have for this season, a bit average in flavour, but will I have the will power to take them off the list next season? They do look really cool – all shiny and black…
I love the process of gardening, sowing the seeds, nurturing the seedlings, the cosseting and pampering of the plants as they grow to lofty heights. There is a smug satisfaction in taking care of any bugs that dare invade the airspace that is my garden territory. I love watering the garden in the height of summer, when that spray from the sprinkler drifts over and lands on you – cooling you gently. I love just being in the garden, looking about at what I have created from bare earth each season. All the hours of toil completely forgotten as I cast my eye over verdant growth bursting with a potential harvest. I’ll even secretly admit to enjoying weeding.
So now I shall review my seed collection and actually figure out how things are supposed to be eaten, and have I been doing it right. Are there things that shouldn’t really be there, and are there things I have been missing? I have been looking at it the wrong way. I don’t have a veggie garden, for the sole delight of the gardener, I have a kitchen garden that offers joy and pleasure to both the gardener and the cook.
Come again soon – tomorrow is the last summer day for another year.
Sarah the Gardener : o )