Wednesday 22 August 2012

Method in the madness

So Summer started today and if the weather forecasters are to be believed, ends later in the week, but in the meantime it's hot, hot, hot. 

I don't know if it is down to weather phenomena or early on set of cataracts but I seem to be seeing the early evenings through different eyes. A lavender sky over peacock puddles, roasted fields that steam with the smell of wet dog and I could swear I saw the full moon bouncing on a cloud the other night.

It's amazing what a bit of sun does to flowers too, not from the obvious growing perspective but they just look better, luminous and luscious, this was obviously considered in the design process.


Well what with one thing and another the garden hasn't had the usual amount of love and attention lavished on it this year, it's been well documented that the season has been soggy but so have I and this damp gloom has emanated over the garden too.  However, the benefit of this has led me to be brave and brilliant or is that lazy and lacklustre? I've let mother nature show her design skills, leaving pockets of my little patch to mingle and mix, wild flower shoulder to shoulder with blousy bloom, grasses growing in harmony with the herbs, well you get the idea.

Anyway the results have been fortuitous not just for me but also for the birds, bees and butterflies that share my little slice of Lincolnshire. 

There has been another factor at play here, I am taking tentative steps towards dropping out, or is that I've been dropped out, anyway whatever the reason I'm getting very interested in the idea of foraging. For a while I've been planting beautiful things that have culinary or medicinal uses but  the right recipe or illness just hasn't bubbled up yet.

One of the interesting things that all of this flower child consciousness has made me aware of though, is just how much garden flora is edible and best of all this includes some of my most persistent weedy enemies.       

Its amazing how war wanes when you know you can eat your opponent, the sting of the nettle is not so sharp, goose grass loses its grip and I can tell you, the slugs, bunnies and even the leveret that have taken to using my garden as a live in, eat as much as you like salad station, are just lucky that I'm a vegetarian or they would have been furry fricassee with slime sauce by now.

The bunnies are so bold its like having pets, they don't even run away, just amble off , obviously sensing that I wouldn't know what to do even if I did catch them. The relatively new leveret scares the bejesus out of me when ever I'm tending the borders, lying undetected and motionless until your a nose length away before erupting from one flowerbed to another.

Above all my green combatants my arch nemesis is most definitely ground elder, lemony in a salad or cooked in soups and stews.

Our altercation began way back in the very early days of our time at Belleau when I was even more of a novice in the garden then than I am now. We had bought the cottage with the garden in full swing but at the end of the season a kindly neighbour had cut down the plants  for me, so as the first Spring came around and green shoots began to carpet the boarders, expectation almost overwhelmed me. 

Caught up in all this anticipation I didn't pay much attention to the fact that there was a uniformity to all this new growth, but as time went on, too late I realised that something was amiss and a trip to the book shelves confirmed it. In the embrace of the cold sweat of panic I dug, sifted and searched through the soil for hours and hours, day after day, disposing of every tiny piece of ground elder as if it were toxic waste, as even the merest morsel left in the earth flourishes. War is hell, I may have retaken my territory but many a brave plant died in the process and If only I'd known then that I could have munched these plants down, the loss and back breaking work wouldn't have seemed such a chore.

Well, back to the present, we have also planted more of the usual cultivated culinary cousins to these wild weeds this year, with various levels of success. We've managed a  solitary marrow, some cabbages that have helped maintain our slug farm, strawberries, gooseberries and lots of lettuce, most of which goes to helping the sparrows have a balanced diet.

I've been using the lemon balm, mint and bee balm for teas, while Dom has obviously been making the most of the herbs I potted up as well as patiently experimenting with nettles in quiches, ground elder and goose grass in omelettes and if they get a move on I know he's probably got some tasty plans for the courgettes, but if all goes to plan it'll not be too long before I'm seen grazing along the boarders with the bunnies.