After weeks of frenzied activity I have awoken to a beautiful blue sky day that already has a bit of heat in it. It is going to be a glorious day. It will be a fabulous Boxing Day. Christmas, unfortunately didn’t start off so kind. It was grey, with a hint of misty rain (the kind of rain that is no good to man nor beast) and it was a tad cold. Cold by summer standards, not winter ones. Fortunately it gave way – eventually – to the most spectacular blue sky day.
Leading up to the big day was a blur of crazy activity. To be honest I’m not sure why we do it to ourselves. All the cleaning and tidying in places unseen and will remain unseen. A clean like this is more suited to spring, however, I was busy in the garden then. Having said that I was still busy in the garden come the festive season. In spite of it all we arrived at Christmas Eve with everything in order and well presented for our guests.
We did things a little differently for us this year, and had our Christmas lunch as a Christmas Eve dinner, and I loved it. It made the big day all about family and not an excessive amount of food, and yet the food was able to be the star of its own show.
Christmas Eve was spent mostly in the kitchen turning the ordinary into the amazing. And while having a festive season in the middle of my growing season can make for a logistical nightmare – finding time to get all the shopping done, but also being able to be in the garden often enough to keep the weeds at bay, keep it all hydrated and stop zucchinis from turning into marrows. This is currently a losing battle.
It isn’t such a bad thing to have a garden in the holidays because much of the food gathering was done in the garden. The salads were crafted at the last moment from the freshest ingredients money can’t buy. The first cucumber of the season was proudly and lovely placed into the jug of Pimm’s alongside strawberries so fresh it still hadn’t occurred to them they had been removed from the plant yet. And with a rousing “Cheers” the festivities were underway.
The beetroot was the star of the roast beetroot salad, as it had been harvested specially for the dish only hours earlier. Although it does have to be said the fresh rocket leaves elevated it all to a higher flavour profile with its pungent peppery leaves.
The pumpkin wasn’t the freshest, but it was the last from last season and that made it all the more meaningful in my roast pumpkin and coconut salad. I couldn’t think of a more fitting use for the star of a harvest gone by.
The fruit salad was laden with fresh seasonal fruit – sadly mostly not mine as we’d already eaten all the apricots and the peaches and nectarines aren’t ready yet in my orchard. The lychees, pomegranate and banana added an exotic twist. I’d grow them if I could, but alas I’m in the wrong corner of the world for these. Moments before serving I headed off to the garden once again to gather strawberries, raspberries and currants to make the fruit burst with flavour.
There is no getting away from it though, the real stars of the meal just had to be the spuds and peas. In most situations they are just humble vegetables almost absentmindedly placed on a plate to make up numbers in the trifecta of ‘meat and three veg.’ At my Christmas table they are the highlight. They are what makes the meal special – without them it wouldn’t seem like Christmas at all.
This is the only premature Christmas preparation I do. I’m a last minute kind of a girl, shopping in the last week and wrapping on the last night. But not with my spuds. My Jersey Benne’s go in on the 18 September on a cold spring day when Christmas seems like forever away. Then 100 days later I take great pleasure in slipping on my gumboots and head out to the garden to dig up the delightful nuggets of new potato. This is also my first opportunity to see how well the crop fared, and this season, getting enough from one plant for us all bodes well.
Peas become more than just food for the day but a festive activity loaded with deep memories long forgotten. I slide on my gumboots again and harvest a trug full of pea pods and deposit it smack bang in the middle of the festively decorated table and goblets sparkling with wine and invite my guests to help shell them for dinner. Instantly my guests are transported back to more years than 50 (I’d get in to trouble if I specified exactly) where as children they had shelled peas on Christmas day with their Grandparents. I was delighted to see I wasn’t the only one who cherished this memory. I’m hoping my boys will be able to carry this forward to their kids one day.
Christmas is a wonderful time, a season of glad tidings and celebration and without a small boy starting out in humble beginnings we wouldn’t really know the true value to finding incredible goodness in what would seem ordinary.
Merry Christmas to you all, thank you for following along in my garden this year.
Come again soon – 2016 is going to be fabulous!
Sarah the Gardener : o )