I took a ridiculous amount of pleasure in finding a few scraggly-assed plants in my little veggie plot in McG.
Actually, to call it a veggie anything is a stretch – but it is there and it is ground and it has a couple of things growing in it, so it qualifies in my book. By the time you read this – it will have had a full overhaul and have been dug through and fertilised and well watered by Jan-the-gardener. And he and I would have planted cauliflower, beetroot and butternut seeds and split the garlic chives, spring onion, spinach, mint, peppadew and baby onion lurking along the edges, to see if we can get them to flourish. We will also have tenderly buried some sprouting baby red potatoes – donated by sofadad.
All very exciting, and more and more I see where my dotage is headed. I will learn to cultivate things and I will use them in meals. I have my eye on some broad beans and hardy salads next, but I want to trial them at home first. A neighbour in McG stopped at the gate the other day to chat – she has had a hell of a year to hear her tell it, and her version of growing older made me sad for a couple of days. “I tell my children,” she said after admitting to an emotional breakdown earlier this year, “to go out and have a blast and when the time comes to get old, to go out with a bang.” Money worries, health issues, anxiety, displacement, loneliness – all these things scuttle around in the shadows here. I told her my plans for a garden: “Makes good sense,” she said, “will give you something to do.”
Eat, play, grow.
So in that spirit I have invested in two very simple gardening books, and when I get back to CT I plan to get one of those trenches on legs I have been admiring at the garden centre (My, my, Miss Wildish ….how you’ve changed). Tom Moggach (The Urban Kitchen Garden) recommends growing exotica – potatoes and onions are plentiful and cheap – he says – grow things like mizuna, shisho, sorrel and chillies. He also has all sorts of suggestions involving herbs, and I fancy trying my hand at some green flavoured bitters. So I am going to have a serious bash.
Going back to Cape Town will also herald a new ‘vegetable forward’ way of eating for our household. I come to the kitchen armed with Yotam Ottolenghi’s book “Plenty”. And intend to work my way through that and Itsu’s book on light Asian Cooking.
With that in mind, may I introduce you to my cabbage? The hearts of which you can see at the top of this post. I found it skulking sadly under some militant mint and decided to rescue it. After removing lots of the outside leaves (various bits of earth and critters had taken refuge in cabbage shade), I shredded it finely, added in some thin sliced pink onion, strips of fresh cucumber, pulled a roast chicken breast (supper leftovers) into thin strands and mixed the lot together.
For the dressing: I crushed a thumb of ginger, slivered a small garlic clove, squeezed two cheeks of lime – muddled it firmly together and added a couple of big fat-bottomed tablespoons of good, store-bought mayonnaise. I seasoned the mix to taste, added a drizzle of sesame oil and a teeny splash of cold water to make it a bit runny and dressed the salad using my hands. I wanted to make sure everything was well coated. After that I left it to stand in the fridge for a few minutes.
Now, I needed crunch. We had some sesame seeds left over from sofasister’s Christmas Eve dim-sum feast, so I toasted those and scattered them liberally on top.
sofa parents were dozing on the sofa in front of an electric fan, kiboshed by the 38C/100F heat outside. But they woke up soon enough and gobbled up the cool Chicken Slaw. “Delicious” said my mom “where did you get the cabbage? I don’t remember seeing it in the fridge.”
“Oh, from my garden”, I replied nonchalantly.