Spring is my favourite time of year. Sure it rains enough to rattle Noah, but for a little while the world is so green and full of potential. I’m such an anticipation sort person – finding more pleasure in the unwrapping than the prize. Which is a good thing, because spring is like a particularly mean-spirited game of pass the parcel food-wise i.e. just a whole lot of pretty paper with no rewards!
In my vegetable garden (actually I have two, which allows for crop rotation), the only thing ready for picking just now is silver beet – and very nice it is too, either torn-up and thrown into a curry at the last minute, sautéed with garlic and chilli in olive oil, or very simply steamed. It’s a good workhorse veggie and I’d never be without it, but it’s not exactly exciting.
The warm flavours, energy and abundance of summer produce are still a long way off. But that’s ok. Half the fun of spring comes from fantasising about the literal fruits of your labours, from watching the steady growth of seedlings in to stout young plants. This make for particularly compulsive viewing when you grow from seed.
I never used to bother with seeds, preferring the quicker results of shop-bought seedlings. The down-side to such impatience is price – seedlings do not offer good value for money, and what’s more, the range available grows smaller and duller each year. For example, I’ve found climbing bean and pea seedlings frustratingly difficult to come by in recent years. Dwarf versions abound and are now the norm in city garden centres. They’re fine, and probably the most practical option for the average sub-divided section, but they lack the yields and variety of their taller kin.
So this year, having exhaustively poured over various seed catalogues, I’m growing everything from seed.
I have rows of black cherry tomatoes (a wonderfully sweet and flavoursome variety I trialled last year and fell in love with), piquillo peppers (the definitive Spanish pepper bar none), butter beans, sugar snap peas, pumpkins, rock melons (which I’ve never had much luck with before, but we’ll see), zucchini, Lebanese cucumbers, basil, coriander and bulls-blood beetroot. All of these have zealously burst forth from their beds of chicken manure-fortified volcanic soil, and are surging upwards and outwards almost visibly before my eyes.
Apart from providing an abundance of lovely manure-laden straw, my chooks (Becky, Sophie and Ophelia) are also in full egg production right now, which at 3 a day is more than enough to keep us well-stocked and satisfied, with enough left over to charm the neighbours.
My favourite lazy meal of the moment, which makes good use of their daily tribute, is bacon sandwiches – made with crispy free-range bacon, just-cooked scrambled eggs, loads of slowly sautéed red capsicum, a generous splatter of Tabasco sauce, and lightly toasted white bread. I know – white bread, gasp! Yes it’s over-processed, its pappy, it’s evil, I know; but when it comes to bacon, egg and pepper sandwiches, nothing else will do.
On the home-orchard front my early white peach has once again delivered a heavy crop of gorgeously blushing, obscenely juicy wee fruit. Bellini’s! Bellini’s for everyone!
As the season progresses I plan on hijacking the blog every so often to update you on the happenings in my ‘all-from-seed’ veggie patch, and perhaps share a recipe or two as things plump up and ripen. Hopefully ya’ll feel compelled to do likewise.
So- how does your garden grow?