Saturday, 7 July 2012

Newcomers in the garden

There they were; spotted suddenly, as though they’d appeared overnight; not seen before amid the leafiness.

Small, yes; but tomatoes all the same. Two small, green tomatoes. And a closer look revealed another pair, lower down, hiding in the foliage. All that was missing was a whistle-stop café.

Setting aside the wonderful Kathy Bates and the delightful Jessica Tandy, it was one of a continuing series of moments that have filled me with utter delight.

In truth, I feel as though I’ve done relatively little. I planted seedlings some time ago, have tied carefully on a regular basis to provide support, have sprayed a couple of times to remove aphids and have managed to pick out at least some of the tiny leaves sprouting between the main stalk and the principal leaves.

Mostly though, it has felt as though the plants have needed only the most superficial help.

But while the war with the snails – and now slugs too – continues to rage, it was a reminder of the rewards.

They’ve got about a month to ripen – because then I’m off to the south of France, which as regular readers will know, is tomato heaven.

Even in this most crazy of summers, when the sun has been only an occasional visitor, the harvesting has been a joy.

The strawberries are still producing fruits - fewer than before and small, but still bursting with a deep and deeply satisfying taste.

There are plenty of delicate, yellow flowers on the tomato plants, so there should be plenty more fruits to follow in the wake of that vanguard.

Tomatoes are a relative of the nightshade family, and are of the genus solanum, which word rather suggests that they need a bit of sun. Yet they seem to be coming on in spite of the semi-constant rain, which continues to make a mockery of the continuing drought.

And talking of sun, I have delicate white chilli flowers too - such a deceptively innocent flower for a fruit that will (hopefully) pack a bit of a punch.

The basil, helped by being surrounded with course sand and by the continuing nighttime patrols, is reviving. The sorrel is looking better and the lamb's lettuce and the American land cress are both pretty much ready for a first cropping - something that will happen after the weekend, to accompany cold meat.

There are plenty of nasturtiums too - and since I find the whole idea of eating flowers a bit 'funny' (yes, even I have something I'm irrational about) I'm thinking of deep frying a few in a tempura batter. Well, you can do it with courgette flowers, so why not?

The violas are still providing lovely colour – what great value bedding plants they are – and the wildflowers, which I sowed on St George's Day, have not flowered yet, but are reaching for the skies.

Whether I've done much or not may be a question, but regardless of the answer, the garden is a pleasure.

And that is a pleasure that will only continue to increase as more and more produce becomes ready to eat.

Indeed, the only real question seems to be why everyone wouldn't want to do this in whatever space they have available, be that a massive garden or pots on a windowsill.

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