Enjoying the fruits of our labour

At last the hungry gap seems to be over. After a long cold spring the temperature is rising and the growth in the garden is really noticeable. We have had salad much of the time but now we can add new potatoes to the menu along with delicious French beans from the tunnel, sugar snap peas, beetroot, broad beans, and the courgettes are just days away. Although the majority of tomato varieties are still a way off, we have grown a variety this year called Bloody Butcher and yesterday I picked eight beautiful ripe tomatoes. It isn’t the best tasting tomato in the world but we are still in June, as I write this, and to get ripe tomatoes so early is a joy. I have grown this variety before but not in the recent few years. I do remember it as always the first to ripen though. I am also growing a variety called Maskotka for the first time. It is bred specifically for pots and baskets and is very prolific. I grew them initially for my daughters and their families but had a good few left over and just threw them in a corner. I was having a tidy-up in the tunnel and found this heap of really sad-looking tomato plants; not able to throw anything away, I decided to pot them on and put them up on my hanging shelf in the tunnel. They have recovered well and now have lots of fruit on them. I haven’t tasted one yet, but it does seem to be an easy and space saving way to grow a crop of tomatoes. I am really making an effort to try and grow all of our vegetables this year. It will mean careful planning both in the garden and with our menus. Eating and cooking with what is in season is a skill that most of us have forgotten. With the ease and availability of convenience food, who could blame us? But the consequences are beginning to catch up with us: From climate change to those horrific rafts of plastic waste in our seas, not to mention intensive livestock farming and land degradation. I like to think I am a careful shopper but I still seem to accumulate a good deal of plastic. So I am doubling my efforts and what I can’t grow myself I will buy from other local growers and producers. Careful choice of vegetable seed varieties will help to extend the season and hopefully give enough of a crop to allow me to store or process surplus to help keep winter food interesting. 

There are also things that are very hard to buy now, such as gooseberries. I have a few bushes in my garden and they are covered in fruit this year. They are delicious just stewed and served with a little cream and I am going to try and make some gooseberry jam this year. This will be a special treat later in the year when there isn’t much fruit in the garden, and also what a lovely little gift it would be for someone. 

So now is the time to start enjoying the fruits of our labour, enjoying lovely fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit from our gardens before we have to start thinking of saving and preserving our bounty for the winter. It will come soon enough. 

Jean Perry

Jean Perry is the owner of Glebe Gardens in Baltimore in West Cork.

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