The Day after the Marrow II

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Well I came back from my holidays to 16.5kg of marrow and they’re still coming thick and fast. What to do with this courgette nightmare?Perhaps one plant will be enough next year.

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Batman broccoli,wok and work

I’ve been trying my hand at growing some new vegetables in the garden.
These choices have been based on a value for space ratings provided in Joy Larkcom’s excellent and informative ‘Grow Your Own Vegetables’.

One of the vegetables that got a high rating was broccoli raab aka broccoli rabe aka rapini aka cime di rapa . The name ‘cime di rapa’ means ‘turnip tops’ in Italian. I planted about 0.5 sqm around  mid March and about 2 months later this is what I got, a sort of raggedy leaf with spindly shoots and florets…Image

Ideally I think that the plants are supposed to have more of a floret but as they where starting to flower it seemed like a good time to bring them in.

I’ve cooked it twice, once in a pasta and sausage dish and today with a beef stir-fry  It tasted good to me, like a sort of Batman broccoli, dark and broody, sort of bitter and complex.  I like it and will grow it again though it might be a bit heavy/bitter for some taste.

( broccoli raab = 430g)

For the stir fry I also took the 2nd cut of some stir fry greens after getting about 100g of young leaves for an oriental salad a few weeks ago.

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The main thing I couldn’t help noticing about the stir fry greens was how beautiful the leaves are to look at. It seems a shame to eat them.

(370g stir fry greens)

I was out watering the vegetable beds this morning at about 8am, it was so beautiful and peaceful, the closest I’ve had to a ‘quiet time’ in a long time.
Then my sense of peace and contentment is nagged by thinking that it’s all very well for me to watering plants at 8am but if I was a real man I wouldn’t have time for so much gardening, I’d be careering of to a job like my neighbours, I wouldn’t have time for faffing around with mizuna and broccoli raab or writing a blog.

So often I wrestle with God in the garden. It is an odd mixture of guilt and delight, pleasure and pain.  What is work? What is a job?

The questions comes thickest in the carrot bed. I’ve weeded that carrot bed so many times already, the weeds keep coming up.I’m aware of the threat of carrot flies. If I’m lucky for hours of work I’ll get 50 about carrots. I can buy a bag of  them up at Joyce’s for 39c.Is it worthwhile investing precious hours on growing something which has  a combined worth of about €4 according to Joyce’s?

They might be loss leaders or whatever but that nearly makes it worse. Carrots are being treated as a commodity or bait to encourage people to spend their money on other more worthy groceries and good.
In a world where our value and worth to society is  measured by the benchmark of money and the Market weeding a carrot bed for 50 carrots throws up questions, questions about what is worthwhile work or who gives value to work, what work should you be engaged in.
Are you crazy or is the world crazy?
Is this just a middle class privilege thing or is their work of true value in growing a turnip?
Turmoil in the turnip patch, serpent in the garden.

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bean tops

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A thunderstorm passed through a few hours ago, you wouldn’t believe how dark it got in the kitchen about 6pm.

But now it’s the calm after the storm, there is a softness in the earth and bird song.

Sometimes walking in the garden I think I can see things growing, like the turnips and lettuce.
It’s all in my imagination *he said to make himself sound sane to anyone reading*  but it’s such a soft day now that you know the vegetables and herbs are soaking it all in, the rain and nutrients and whatever else makes things grow.

I pinched the tops off my broad beans, they books say to do this when they come into flower so that the energy goes into making the beans. It was as nice task because broad  beans smell lovely. A few books suggest to cook them if they aren’t over run with blackfly, which they weren’t so I made a risotto.
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It looked better than it tasted truth be told, not because of the bean tops but because I haven’t yet mastered the art of making onions soft and transparent without letting them get brown. The crunchy onions ruined it for me, though it still tasted nice. It ruined it because I was kicking myself for not getting the oni0ns right. In my defence I was distracted by counting the time between flashes of lightning and the sound of thunder, calculating that the thunderstorm must be directly above Barna now or out in Galway Bay. It was also pitch black.
If you don’t cook much you’d be amazed how often the recipes tells you not to let  onions brown. It seems like a simple thing but my oven hobs are crazy and want to char anything that touches them, even at the lowest setting.

So there you go, pay attention to softening your onions and don’t throw out your broad bean tips.

remembering

re-blogged because it’s true..

canal ways

..it is curious how seldom the all importance of food is recognized. You see statues everywhere to politicians, poets, bishops, but none to cooks or bacon-curers or market-gardeners.’

George Orwell in ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’

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keeping the dandelions

I was walking home last night up to the house and for the first time that I can remember felt a sense of shame that our house was looking dowdier and more run down that the other houses in the cul-de-sac. It could use a lick of paint and the grass ‘needs’ cut.

The thing is that I don’t think the grass really needs cut but feel obliged socially to fit in with the narrative of the tidy lawns in all the rest of the homes.I don’t think that the grass needs cut because I was watching two goldfinch eating dandelion heads on my lawn, dandelions that would be obliterated by the lawnmower or house proud gardeners who think of them as weeds. No dandelions means no goldfinch. I’d rather have the goldfinches on long grass than a billiard table surface. It seems a bit pointless to spend money on buying in seeds and putting them in feeders to attract goldfinches when you grow your own.

The pressure to fit in is powerful though. I don’t want to be the blow in that brings the neighbourhood and makes the place look untidy and unkempt. So instead I will pay for petrol and pay for getting the lawnmower serviced and walk around keep the grass short all summer. Somehow keeping the grass short  has become tied in with being some type of Christian witness (because I’m respecting the culture of the place). I’m not sure I want to go too far down this road mind you..Image

 

seed sowing

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The weather lovely, the wind not too blowy, a morning for planting seeds in the garden.
So far I’ve planted chervil, land cress, leeks, stir fry greens, comfrey, courgettes and Chinese broccoli. I’ve got modules ready for some kale and lettuce and other seed packets/
I’ve been reading the instructions but now I’m ignoring the instructions and just planting seeds willy-nilly as it just feels right to be putting them in the soil today in any way.

I thought that planting my own vegetables and herbs might save money. But seeds, modules, cloches, wood for raised beds adds up and you wonder if it might not be cheaper to just buy them at the supermarket. Then there is the weeding (already!), and the snail holes and the watering. My soil seems so dry and now that I’ve actually started planting stuff it also seems poor.

Is it worth my while planting vegetables?

Putting kale seeds into modules quickly goes to thoughts about work and the economy and how bags of peas can only cost £1.19. How much fertiliser is being blitzed into the soil in fields in unknown locations to make the economics work?
The more I do stuff in the garden the more the economy doesn’t make sense. Machines might make farm productivity greater but how many men and women have they put out of work? Stuff doesn’t add up.
I could spend weeks planting vegetables and working hard but the price of cauliflowers or carrots tells me that my work isn’t worthwhile. That is if the value of our work is measured in euros or salaries. Which is a lie because the value of our work doesn’t lie in the valuation of Mammon. Or at least it shouldn’t.

And we pay too little for our food and too much for frivolities and trinkets.
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