Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The sound of deadlines

'I love deadlines; I like the whooshing sound they make when they fly by.'
Douglas Adams

If you tell people you've got a garden, they probably imagine you sitting in a fancy chair on a meticulously mown lawn with a glass of chilled white wine. If you mention you grow vegetables, they start frowning (this does sound like work?!), but then clear up as their mind's eye pictures armfuls of freshly harvested unspecified greens. Your arms, that is, while they are enjoying that glass of chilled white wine on your lawn. The table is laid, of course, in this fairy-tale video and the next shot shows you smiling and tossing these greens into a large bowl. Yes, they like the idea of you having a garden.

Let's not beat about the bush: a garden is a lot of work. Gardening is one big fight against draught, heat, pelting rains, lice, birds and ... time. Spring has several important deadlines dictated by nature, though the weather may postpone or advance their date without telling you. Then there are the fellow-gardeners you need to keep an eye on, as you don't want to be known as someone who is late with every crop.
This year didn't start well. I forgot to buy parsley seed for sowing in November (my usual 'but-I-already-have'); while others had spinach coming up, I was still fertilizing the soil; my broad beans are half the size of my neighbour's (mine are surely a different kind) and full of lice; parsnip (usually an easy crop) refuses to sprout; what I thought to be rucola turned out to be mustard choy of which I had sown enough already; the potatoes I ordered to be dibbled in March arrived by the end of April.

Still, I don't think other gardeners will dare laugh at me. There's one crop in my garden that makes up for all these failures, one with which I can silence any comment. 'Kapucijners Winterhefe', as the handwriting on the envelope stated, partly in Dutch, partly in German. Winter marrowfat peas. See picture, taken in March. I got them from a friend, who got them etc. All I could find out via the internet was that someone in Germany remembered his grandmother sowing these peas in November. So that's what I did. It seems to work. Unprecedentedly: they are not eaten by birds (yet).

The unspecified greens I was tossing into a bowl are the ingredients of what I call tuinsla, garden salad: a mixture of salads, cresses and herbs. This salad alone is worth all the work and stress a garden brings you.
Garden salad
Use several of these fresh greens: leaf lettuce, cress, spinach, mustard choy, mint, tarragon, ramson, chive (do try the flowers). Add olive oil (I'm very fond of Apulian olive oil) and lemon juice. Toss. Eat. Go get yourself a garden.

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