I genuinely believe that a veg grower has to be inventive, or they will go mad.
This time of year the line between normality and insanity is particularly perforated and delicate. Suddenly you are faced with the fact that there is little more to plant and that the only things left on the plot are proof that winter, dark nights, cabbage and roots are upon us. There is some solace in the thought that Christmas dinner will be a celebration of home grown delights but despite that glimmer of festive cheer it’s still hard to get too excited by turnips, Kale and parsnips. It would be too easy to be sad.
On the positive side the garage is heaving with the Autumn-harvest but that said, the pressure to find a way of using everything, wasting nothing and coming up with daily variety in the kitchen can almost be overwhelming. In the summer (4 days in total I seem to recall) the possibilities seemed endless. Now thinking of five things to do with a pumpkin before they go off, resisting the temptation for ‘making a load of potato soup’ and crying over the mountain of onions is almost a daily ritual.
Of course, everyone faces a daily deliberation over what to cook but the veg grower has the added dilemma that if he doesn’t use that squash (or 5 squashes) this week, they will decay/get eaten my mice- or slugs, or end up on a friends compost heap , when they don’t have the heart to tell you that the last one ended up as a Halloween decoration.
Then there are the mystery veg. Months ago it seemed like no big deal. Use up the last of the seeds, label the pots and throw away the packet. In theory, the shiny plastic label with permanent ink should have hugged the plant through its life. The reality is that labels fade, get lost or broken and some plants just seem to pop up in the most unexpected of places. The net result is that now I find that along with my well labeled regulars I also seem to harvest batches of lovely looking produce with no real idea of what they are, or how to cook them. Of course I know it’s an unusual squash (or perhaps one of those strange variety of courgette I bought a few years ago?); and surely a potato is a potato- but is it floury or hard? A baker or a boiler? ; Onion or oversized shallot? Its hard to tell. And this is where insanity prospers. Memory is just not stable enough to recall the varieties, so the only way to conquer is to experiment. This is going to sound like I am a few berries short of a crumble but when you don’t know the veg you have to try and understand it. Veg box users will empathise. When you work out the qualities the vegetable has you can come up with the most amazing flavor combinations and flavours. Tonight I have stuffed something squash like with leeks, mustard, creme fraiche and garlic and roasted for an hour. I don’t know what to call it but the smooth creamy texture tastes exceptional. If only I knew what I was dealing with I might even plant them again.