Despite threats to the contrary, we didn’t plant kale for summer harvesting this year. This may indeed represent a trick missed: the super-nutritious green stuff is in high demand all year round now. Quite a change of fortune for the hardy old crop that a couple of decades ago was most popular amongst those who’d never tried it; those who had disparraged it as “animal fodder”. Well, looks like the animals had a point after all.
The point I have is that the apperance and disappearance of kale, like leeks, in the packhouse, is as sure a reassuring marker of the seasons’ switching tide as the turning and returning of leaves in trees. And the seasons are having a confusing enough time as it is lately, without our sticking the boot in with kale in summertime.
Last week the big moment slipped by almost unnoticed: Vi, Kate and Iva came quietly from the Entrance Field with crates frilled with the debut pickings of our Scottish kales “Pentland Brig” and “Westland Winter”, for the following day’s vegebags. There was the added poignancy, of course, that the next day would be Scotland’s big moment: the referendum on national independence. The week of the equinox, and everything in the balance.
Across the spectrum, it’s been agreed that the plebiscite opened up the gates to that rare and precious thing: a spell of genuine popular engagement in politics, as ordinary people began to dig out and excercise their latent power. It’s the same mood that becomes heightened to tangibility in times of revolt and insurrection: the “orgasms of history”, as Yves Frmion memorably termed them.
Yet in the aftermath of the narrow night of No, what is striking is the psychological sparring, between the desire for change, and the fear of it. For me that tussle climaxes, more than at any other time, at the autumn equinox. Whilst all the seasons have their splendid flavours, like many I start to flinch at the thought of the effort required to brace against the cold to come.
Kale can help here: its high Vitamin K content helps thicken the blood, and its anti-bacterial properties keep the cold germs at bay. It’s a cockle-warming consolation as we face up to a future without cucumber.
O Kale of Scotland, we see your like again…