Not picky enough

15Jul11

Growing fruit and veg – it’s a bit long haul, innit? I mean, admittedly not like waiting for an oak forest to mature or learning Arabic (why they have no vowels? Why thy hv n vwls?), but even so. It outstrips my attention span and outlives my paltry sense of responsibility. You spend ages spilling compost on your trousers while trying to fill old takeaway dishes as propagators; you plant the seeds, scrupulously adhering to the instructions on the packet (0.5cm deep, 1.5cm apart); forget what you planted in which tray; realise it doesn’t matter because at least 30% will never germinate (rising to 80% if you don’t water them), and then wait. Wait a bit longer, peer at them, lose interest. They will then sprout, flower and bear fruit. Marvellous.

Then, if you’re me, you won’t pick the stuff, ever. You’ll say things like ‘That’s looking great’ and ‘I can’t believe how well that’s come’, and leave it until it’s gone over, as I believe the phrase is. I well recall last autumn watching a flatmate retch on a dinner I’d cooked when a piece of courgette as hard as rhino hide, harvested a good three weeks after its due date, hit his soft palate. Five minutes later the same thing happened to me and I can assure you, the heaving struggle not to vomit is no, er, picnic.

We didn’t bother with courgettes this year (that rhino-hide moment still makes me laugh, but there’s a definite oesophageal squeeze beneath the giggles). This year we’ve already pulled out and binned the bolted spinach and now there are overripe gooseberries all over the path. Fortunately I think the tomatoes are so densely planted the bees can’t get in to pollinate the flowers, rendering unprovable the suspicion that the sun probably wouldn’t penetrate to ripen any fruit anyway. The lettuce, however, are looking just about ready to pick. I bet they’d be revoltingly bitter in a fortnight. Think I’ll wait.

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