Monday 3 January 2011

Happy new year

My first ‘proper’ trip to the allotment this year was heartening. A four-inch blanket of snow insulated most crops and while the outer leaves of Swiss chard and spinach are unappealingly brown and slimy, there is encouraging new growth coming through in the middle – thankfully as these two usually keep us going through the ‘hungry’ weeks in February and March. The chicory and radicchio look pretty horrible as well, but when I peel back the mushy, frostbitten layers there are healthy pink hearts underneath. I’m thinking they could go into a tart with some of the leeks and some blue cheese.
The greatest number of casualties is in the brassica bed. Many of the purple sprouting broccoli plants have been flattened by the weight of snow on the net covering them – although thankfully, I don’t think any of the main stems have snapped as they did last year – and the mature Savoys are browned and soft. The calabrese looks dead as well: no sign of any recovering growth here.
I dug up parsnips and the very last of the pink fir apple potatoes. The parsnips taste wonderful after the prolonged freeze: sweet abd fragrant instead of that soapy flavour they have early in the season. The potatoes are remarkably unharmed: there’s a bit more slug damage than there was back in November and just as I was thinking that the potatoes were generally smaller this year than last, I found some utter whoppers under the last haulm right at the end of the row. I love these baked whole, or roasted, especially if I can mix them with some of the parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes, since a cold, wet January is hardly the time for potato salad.

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