Potatoes are in the ground. Some are, anyway. Garlic is in. Broad beans are in. More raspberry canes, a gooseberry bush and strawberries are in. Now it’s the waiting game.
This slow period in the garden is in stark contrast to summer. I don’t have to water the plot at this time of year (though it’s getting pretty close to needing it, we’re having such a dry winter). There are weeds, but they’re sluggish to rise and easy to pull. The soil doesn’t really need mulching, and things that are in the ground take so long to come to size that there’s less turning of the garden beds from one crop to another. What went into the ground in late February is still producing food for the kitchen.
Interestingly, as the light changed, so did the season. After the shortest day, plants started to bud. The camellias have burst into flower. The rhododendrons have started to open – the early ones at least. There was even a tiny, lonesome blossom on the blueberry bush, despite the fact it’s still winter, still frosty, and likely to be cold for another two months. Spring starts, in small ways, before winter really finishes. The wattles are about to bloom, and on nice days the bees are venturing out of the hive and looking for nourishment. This at a time when the last leaves of the fenouillet gris apple still haven’t fallen to the ground.
A local hardware store has nine varieties of seed potatoes, the disease-free spuds you plant. Last year, I harvested the magnificent and previously (by me) unheard of Up to Date, with stunning results, so I’ve bought a bag of those. I also can’t go past Pink Eyes, Tassie’s own, wonderfully sweet, waxy potato. I fancy Dutch Creams, too, a potato that tastes like you’ve put butter on it when you haven’t.
Ross and I have taken a month off from the market. Time to get more pigs fattened, to do some overdue bookwork, to do more chores around the farm (and some work away from my beloved cottage). To recharge. Just one weekend of hands-on, real cooking Rare Food work – a lamb feast on Bruny. Had some Sardinians stay and they’ve inspired a recipe or two using old breed Wiltshire Horn lamb. Ross is talking about making some special sausages. Might use my home cured olives with one of the lamb dishes. And there’ll be at least one other dish of pork, as is our wont – when you have something as good as the meat from Ross’s Berkshires, it’s great to showcase it.
I was mentoring a high school student a few weeks ago when the boy’s father gave me some of the watercress that grows wild on their property. Being pommies, they know a thing or two about watercress. This stuff is paler than the one I already had growing near the fence. It’s bigger leafed, and sweeter yet pungent. I ate some and planted the rest in the creek. It’ll go fantastically well with my dry-aged beef – a few choice cuts of which are still dodging around in the freezer.
Roast beef sandwiches, with my own watercress and my own horseradish on my own sourdough bread. Some days, the living is easy.