Something tells me that the reason so much produce gets wasted on allotments is to do with the fear of dirt and bugs. The idea of the perfectly presented vegetable is so engraved in our minds that we forget that such paragons of beauty don’t exist at all in the real world. The other day I was up at the top talking to Terry. He’d just dug up a couple of leeks, Musselburghs, as it happens and they looked pretty much like leeks always do in late February – tatty, dirty and unappetising. Then he whipped out a large knife and in three strokes he cut off the roots and then the top in a deft delta shape. Off came the outer yellow leaves and in ten seconds the ugly duckling became a showbench swan. I silently resolved to get a knife like that, purely for the theatrical effect.
The brassica bed on our plot is looking similarly tatty. Leaves don’t last for ever and often the reason some other people’s brassicas look healthier is that they sensibly remove the outer dying leaves before they fall off and attract slugs. Everyone should try it, especially if there’s a plot inspection due. We’ve borrowed about 50 square metres off our neighbour who’s temporarily indisposed, and yesterday I cut him a savoy cabbage by way of a thank-you. He’d come up for some of his purple sprouting broccoli but the pigeons had got there first. Again on the face of it our small gift wasn’t a great specimen, but a bit of a trim with my penknife made it look as good as anything in the supermarket. It was then I resolved to use up some of the surplus by making a batch of sauerkraut.
And so this morning, as planned, we went up to check things out. Nothing stirring in the hot bed yet, but then we weren’t expecting too much for a few days. However the compost heap had leapt into action after being turned and the worms have all retreated (hopefully) to a place of safety after the temperature had increased to 35C. It’s absolutely true what they say: turning is what keeps the composting process going.
After that discovery while Madame looked after the greenhouse, I cut savoys and an odd red cabbage for the sauerkraut.
Back in the kitchen it didn’t take long to clean and shred the cabbage, salt it and get it into the fermentation jar. By then, of course, I was in full-on cooking mode so off I went on pommes dauphinoise and roasted pork belly on cider using up another pile of our own veg that were unlikely to be used in anything except stock.
Then, back up to the allotment where I was able to dig the very last patch of unused ground. I’m fully committed to no-dig gardening and although it might sound contradictory, I needed to dig this patch to remove the last of the rampant couch and bindweed. However I’m bound to say I love digging and I’ll miss it immensely. When we’d finished we wandered down through the organic allotments towards the pub and we were taken for a rather inspiring guided tour around the community garden. What a lovely day – our pints never tasted better!