“If you assume there’s no hope, you guarentee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, there are opportunities to change things, there’s a chance you may contribute to making a better world. that’s your choice”. – Noam Chomsky
The realm of possibilities is a shrinking territory unless you periodically push back the boundaries, by doing what you suspect you can’t do. Ten years ago, OrganicLea was shakily founded on the basis of some half-baked idea of nurturing a local food economy in Northeast London. Now, the dream has been called into being: only through reflecting on such transformations from fiction to fact, can we find it in ourselves to dream new, equally wet-behind-the-ears, dreams.
On a different, literally fundamental, scale, this year we’ve grown carrots. The carrot family are the awkward squad of the veg pack. Som people claim they can’t grow parsnips. In lore, only witches can grow parsley, and during the witch hunts, to do so brought charges of witchcraft.
As for me, for some time I’ve maintained that carrots are my bogey crop. My first few enthusiastic attempts failed, due to the poor and slow germination characteristic of them and their aforementioned cousins. And, whether in Yorkshire or London, I’ve always gardened on heavy clay, which for root crops must feel something like wading through treacle, with consequently stunted results. There’s a reason most commercial carrots are raised in sandy areas.
But one interesting outcome of crop rotations is that, every year, you end up growing things that wouldn’t be your first choice, because you have to somehow fill that allocated space in the planting plan. Like painting with a limited palette, this apparent restriction can in fact open doors we would otherwise keep shut: for example, some of our weirdest salad leaf discoveries have arisen from the constant quest to find leaves to grow, that are not in the three key salad families.
I find it a peculiar fact, but a fact it is, that the good folk of Waltham Forest will only eat so much celery. So this year, with intrepidation, we sowed our first roots – carrots – into the second Apiaceae bed in the Entrance Field. In mitigation, we went for “Chantenay Red Cored”, a thick, short-rooted cultivar.
It’s not been a great year for the orange pointy things: the drought of April/May has wrecked a whole generation’s germination in their East Anglian heartland. Our sowings have had a battle too, but last week, when we pulled for them, they rose up: chunky, glowing, earthy and bunchworthy; a triumph of hope.