Monday 27 April 2020

Feeding under siege

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
WB Yeats
I've got two daughters who are living in city apartments and therefore have limited facility for exercising their green fingers. Which is a waste, because they are both much more assiduous, careful, gardeners than their father. But y' have to do something to hedge against an uncertain future. Nine beans rows might be a bit overwhelming and nine beans are too Jack & the Beanstalk. But I can compromise! And at the end of last year, I saved a couple of handfuls of haricot beans Phaseolus vulgaris which I planted out in liddle weenie pots. They were remarkable for their sproutability - at least 90% 'take' and in due course big enough to produce true leaves. Much better rate than the peas-in-a-packet we bought in a garden centre before shut-in. For a week or more they have been big enough to plant out in their final position [L] - (in the poly-tunnel because it's not impossible that the angry gods will deliver a late frost). As last year and previously, the beans are planted in raised buckets in a raised bed; because that's the easiest way to ensure they get the use of any water that we can divert inside the tunnel. After all, it doesn't rain in there. At the far end of the bean row is a mighty bush of parsley Petroselinum crispum which somehow survived from last year and was the first green thing which showed above ground this spring. Now every salad we eat gets a generous handful of rough chopped parsley which is an acquired taste that I am acquiring.

We had a minor crisis a couple of weeks ago in Chateau Self-isolation [we aren't quite decrepit enough to be cocooned] . . . it was announced that this . is . the . last . onion. Pan[dem]ic! Providentially, it was simultaneously apparent that the ramsons Allium ursinum were up and almost in flower. Somehow we also had a lot of crinkly cabbage and the end of a 25kg bag of potatoes. To me that shouts Caldo Verde whether or not you have a handful of chopped chorizo to cast thereto. And it was so.  Are you, or have you ever been a member of the caldoverde party? I was, I am, I will be. There is nothing more sustaining than a bowl of cabbage&spuds - I could happily eat caldo verde or some variation of it every day. Variation? A half cup of lentils; a handful of beans; a generous handful of rough chopped parsley.
Now ramsons can be, to some noses, pervasively whiffy. But that's not a bother because we're all Bobby-no-hugs isolating!  Allium ursinum, according the The Englishman's Flora, has a satisfying list of common names in English: ramsons, ramps, wild garlic, stinking jenny, gipsy gibbles, devil's posy, brandy bottles, onion flower, iron flower. Whatever you choose to call it, into the soup pot [L] it goes. The other greens which keep on giving are chives Allium schoenoprasum, yet another of the generously culinary genus of Allium, We have been going triple green <chives, ramsons, parsley> in almost everything we cook this Spring: Caldo Rambo [L], a quiche - bulked out with the last half leek Allium ampeloprasum, a split-pea and frozen chicken stock [dated 19-Apr-19] soup, even a pizza - why not? Apart from the Free Food all the fresh veg is finished; the last cup of butter milk became scones on Saturday; the last dribble of real milk is gone, so I've gone all continental about the tea. Someone will have to go to the shop soon.

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