Fresh Pickings

This week, normal sevice is resumed: our box scheme members, stall supporters, and five catering partners will once again be enjoying Hawkwood salad.

There are many reasons why mixed salad leaves are our flagship product here. As a labour intensive, highly perishable and high value crop, they are the obvious thing to grow at a small community-supported market garden a mere cycle trailer’s ride from its marketplace. Ecologically speaking, they allow us to dispatch commercial quantities of one thing whilst side-stepping the dead end of monoculture: last year forty three different species of plant passed through the mixing trough.

The mix evolves through the seasons, summer blend giving way to hardy leaves, enabling year-round supply. I say year round, but everything needs a break some of the time. Our corn salads and chicories get annual leave in January, when, for all anyone knows, they take long-haul cosmic flights to the Underworld and the Venetto. Then we commence picking before we leave Aquarius.

The best laid plans. This year, winter came hard and late, like Paul Scholes on one of his bad days, nipping new growth. Frustrating, but the flip side has been seeing the eagerness with which a range of folk have been asking after it, and the cheer with which last week’s first slim pickings of rocket were greeted.

Absence makes the heart fonder, I guess; or “you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone”, as Joni Mitchell chirped in that 1970 song of dawning environmental awareness. I found myself gnawing ravenously at the “graded out” leaves as I sorted them last week, as if I too was starved, not only of the flavour and texture, but of some vital element held in these fresh raw greens.

More broadly, the hunger we are seeing in the cities, for food with vitality, grown with integrity, hints at a yearning to retrieve what is gone or going: that natural fibre that threads us to our place in the world.

Yet always, after a going, a return. This week, our freshly engraved bike trailers will be “Pedalling London grown food”, satisfying at least some hungry people with one joy of a returning spring.

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