Mind the Gap

Nothing but blue skies……
With high pressure over Scandinavia and the jet stream well to the south the northerly air flow has turned the islands into a frigid riviera. Long sunny days and balmy temperatures of 5°C, which in the lightest wind become a chilly 1°C, are perfect for brisk walks along the beach but hopeless for vegetable gardening. So until the soil warms to a tropical 10°C, between seed sowing and dreaming of summer, there is time to enjoy the skylark’s serenade and watch the lapwings sky dancing.

The green shoots peering wistfully between the brown stalks of last years flower stems promise future delights and allow the spring bulbs their moment of glory.

The vegetable beds remain dormant under their winter blanket of seaweed with only the spikes of garlic and clumps of chives tough enough to brave the winter sunshine. The buds are swelling on the currants and gooseberries and there are tender ruby stalks of rhubarb ready to be transformed into crumbles.

The garden may be “plump with promise” but “a promise is a comfort for a fool”. The hungry gap looms and the cupboard is almost bare: 2 sacks of potatoes, 14 garlic bulbs, 2 celeriac and half a red cabbage. Two bags of broccoli, 4 of cauliflower, 6 of broad beans and 2 of tomatoes in the freezer. The spectre of scurvy hovers and not even a nettle shoot in sight!

This glorious sunshine may nourish the spirit but makes a thin soup. Fortunately all is not lost – there is beetroot, spinach and Florence fennel in the polytunnel, soon to be supplemented by early carrots, mizuna, Chinese cabbage, winter lettuce and radishes. With the heat of the sun the temperature in the tunnel soon soars to 20°C, but with night-time temperatures falling to 0°C and below, delicate seedlings have to be coddled and wrapped in fleece.

It is easy to get impatient and although I know that, provided that weather gods are not too unkind, in May I can stand in the garden and watch the plants grow, my fingers itch to sow yet more seeds. So instead I will turn my thoughts to tonight’s supper (celeriac gratin, mash or gratin?) and meander down to the garden to see if there is enough rhubarb for a breakfast crumble.

The next generation - early carrots
The next generation – early carrots

20 thoughts on “Mind the Gap

  1. I’m resisting sowing seeds as well, I know it’s simply too cold for them, so these impatient green fingers of mine, like yours are turning to the kitchen – and for some reason I fancy Thai style salad-noodles, something about the sweet zest of a lime that my mind and body seem to crave right now.

    • After a winter of root vegetables and brassicas I also have cravings for clean sharp flavours. Nothing can beat a nice crispy bowl of salad straight from the garden. At least if you stick to eating fruit and veg in season there is always something to look forward too.

  2. I am planning a food parcel as I write …… 😉 As you say, the blue sky and sunshine is great for the soul and bracing walks, but not so good for more practical tasks. Your veg from the polytunnel look fantastic though, and are a credit to your husbandry. Keep warm Both.

    • You are so kind and thoughtful, any chance of slipping in small bottle of fizz (non vintage will be fine) for medicinal purposes with the protein bars?

      • You are in luck!! As it happens I do have a very elderly bottle of Moet & Chandon that you are more than welcome to (not a fizz person myself) – will it keep for another year or would you like it now?!

        • You are too kind. Methinks hung by my own petard?

          • I too have a few petards tucked away in anticipation of the occasional hoist 😉

  3. I haven’t seen any rhubarb at the market yet…. maybe next week. Hope yours stretched to a crumble!

    • The first forced rhubarb is just appearing in the shops now. Crumbles are small at present but we will soon be producing on an industrial scale.

  4. I don’t grow many vegetables, as you have probably figured out, but I always stand in awe as I read about the fantastic food you grow yourself.
    And by the way – impatience is a total prerequisite for being a gardener. Do not feel alone 🙂

    • Vegetable growing is pure self indulgent masochism and best avoided unless like me you have no other option. So stick to flowers and I’ll enjoy your recipes.

  5. PJ

    The snow is melting and the weeds are poking through. How come they germinate so much better than vegetables? My fingers are aching to feel soil and sow seeds – and I don’t have a greenhouse yet 🙁

    • Snow and weeds what a combination! Even the weeds are keeping a low profile at the moment but I know they will be on the rampage soon! I’m sure the greenhouse will come along eventually.

  6. Slices of potato, celeriac an garlic would make a nice dauphinois. Half a red cabbage needs a bit more imgination.

    • Celeriac dauphinois is a great favourite even if it sends the cholesterol level into the stratosphere. Red cabbage ended up stir-fried-steamed with garlic, grated ginger and a dash of sherry vinegar.

  7. Very poetically put! I’m still looking forward to warmer weather and times when there’s more variety and less spinach though!

    • Me too! I’m eying the salad seedlings and debating whether I sacrifice them as micro-greens!

      • Well they do germinate quite quickly, should be even quicker now with the sun around the corner!

        • Normally the seedlings are galloping in the polytunnel by the end of March, but at the moment they’re sulking and moaning about the cold!

          • You hit the nail on the head there, a very apt description of my seedlings performances thus far as well!

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