Nicole, Stefan, Ed, t’other Ru, and I, got the garlic up, out and in last week. The are beauties, big fat bulbs the like of which I’ve never grown, or even seen grown organically. Now they lie in the warm dry refuge of the glasshouse. Safe. There, the reified sun will dry their bones, preserving them into next spring. As a by-product of this curing process, they freshen the air with the sensuous aroma of Italian restaurants. It’d be far-fetched to claim that they are keeping vampires, rats and aphids at bay, but they surely can’t be encouraging them. All in all, it’s good having them around.
There is a deep sense of security in having a crop in for store, and garlic provides this early doors in July, whilst farmers sweat for a few more weeks until the grains; and maincrop spuds and roots are ripe. For the grower though, the relief is fleeting and fractional: the bulk of what we do is fresh produce, straight off the land. A risky business.
The care given to this weeks golden and “striped” beetroot, for instance, is repaid fleetingly, with a wistful gaze back at the colourful crates before they are cradled into the van or bicycle trailer to their next destination – the organic grocer or the Slow Food restaurant. Then, we turn to the immediate task of bringing on the next beetroot sowings. It’s like a succession of one night stands, whereas cut-and-come-again salads; and fruiting vegetables (e.g. tomatoes) are akin to a proper affair.
However short or long the fling, right now is the summer of love: vegetables are sweet, juicy and infinite, in the ground and on the vine. The garlic in the glasshouse is but an echo, yet prophecy, of the cold comfort of winter stores.