parsley, rhubarb, early March 2020
This will be a record of the vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers that come off the allotment this season.
And I will think about some of the words and phrases associated with growing food and more.
produce, production, product,
harvest, bounty, gather, reap, ripe,
A bowl of thirty three quinces, all from my tree planted on the allotment 2 years ago. Beautiful perfumed fruit.
Was Eve’s apple actually a quince? The Ancient Greeks called it the fruit of fertility. In the poem, The Owl and the Pussycat got married and ‘dined on mince and slices of quince’. Apparently quinces are baked into Greek wedding cakes along with honey and sesame seeds.
Van Gogh painted a lovely ‘Still life with quinces’.
Try a crumble of apples and quinces. Quince jelly with a salty manchego cheese – mmmmm.
I’m interested in mushrooms, fungi – I saw the mushroom exhibition at Somerset House before lockdown, fascinating. They are neither plant nor animal. Their communication networks are huge. The question was posed – could we join in with their wood wide web, connect with nature, cooperate with nature? We are nature after all. Entangled, the new book by Merlin Sheldrake, sheds light into this underground world, a new place of exploration. There are so many fungal species, only around 6 per cent have been described. Too wet for the allotment where toadstools are sprouting up, I take 2 edible mushrooms from the fridge to the studio and draw them. I draw my palette, a pair of scissors. The mushrooms again. They seem impenetrable. The cups separated from their roots. I’ll cut and fry them tonight, I’ll chew and swallow them. They’ll be inside me. They too find food and digest it. Sheldrake says that the vast majority of fungi live most of their lives as mycelial networks. It’s how they feed. Unlike animals, which put food in their bodies, fungi put their bodies in their food.
Not a silver nutmeg but a golden pear. The best from my tree this season, a beauty. Beauty in natural things. Looking closely, carefully – with care, in all its senses. You see more, you see detail, you see flaws. This way of looking creates care and value. I feel differently about this pear after examining it. I feel some kind of attachment to it. How strange. How natural. Slow looking links me to this fruit. Can I eat it? Yes I will eat it, but taking my time, to taste it, to enjoy it, not wasting any of it. I will save the seed. The stalk and tough parts will go into the compost to become part of the earth again. The dignity of life.
Potatoes, earth’s gold. The thrill of forking the soil, and finding these golden vegetables.
My favourite vegetable. Numerous ways to cook. Salt of the earth. A basic in my book. All shapes, all sizes.
Light up the room with a potato lamp. Or see time passing with a potato clock.
Carl Rogers, the psychologist, spoke of potatoes left in a dark cellar. How they would sprout and grow towards any chink of light. He was comparing how humans continue to grow even in poor conditions.
Hardy potatoes. Give me a potato any day. I’ll survive these dark corona days.
And now whitecurrants. Redcurrants, blackcurrants and whitecurrants. These are see-through, you can see the seed, like a skeleton. The bones. The white bones of a thing. The seed, the essence, all that is needed to become. Plus soil, sun and rain.
What do we need to become? What is a healthy environment for us? What is our soil, sun and rain?
I’m starting a seed library for the allotments. A bank of seeds grown here. If you save your seed and then sow it the next year, it will gradually adapt to the environment. And you can share it with others nearby. And it’s free, free of the capitalist hold on seeds, the start of life. Free like the soil the sun the rain, the air. Guard your seeds with your life.