Vegetable Stories no 2

I am at the kitchen window, looking out on the garden as I tear the fat stalks from a glossy sinkful of chard leaves. Baby carrots and cavalo navone (a buttery Italian turnip, highly recommended) are stewing with oil and honey. Steam from the new potatoes rattles the saucepan lid and makes me think of James Watt watching his mother’s kettle and inventing the steam engine.

For the first time most of this evening’s meal comes from the garden. It’s been thin pickings from this new plot compared to recent years when by July we would have been feasting on allotment produce.

My mouth waters in anticipation of the earthy taste of chard and sweet carrots. I love eating things so soon after they come out of the ground or off the plant.

And as I stand there, something flips me back to a much younger self. It’s London in the early 80s and there I am, head over heels in love with the markets like Pimlico’s Warwick Way and Soho’s Berwick Street. I smile a little ruefully at my smugness in knowing the good places to buy food; but it’s nice to remember that child-like pride and pleasure in negotiating the stalls and heaps of produce, coming home with just what I wanted, lovely fresh things crying out to be cooked.

Back then the idea of growing anything other than a few herbs in pots never crossed my mind. I’ve got to know a different way of living, but colours, textures, tastes, the excitement of food are all the same. And at 53, with my hands in a sink full of green leaves, inside I feel just like myself at 23.

Except of course, back then I thought I’d always live in London…

Early morning beans

At the farmers’ market

Friends from Manchester will remember that we used to buy our meat from the farmers’ markets in Piccadilly and Chorlton, most of it from brilliant Savin Hill Farm in the Lyth Valley in Cumbria. Other favourites were Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire at Piccadilly and Winter Tarn Organic Farm at Chorlton Green.

We miss them, but are happy to have another farmers’ market on the doorstep – once a month at Sleaford, the town five miles away from Heckington. The above photos are of stalls I visited there this morning. This being a farming area, the stallholders are almost all from Lincolnshire; producers at the Manchester market travel from as far as the north of Cumbria. Talking to farmers reminds me just how hard they work to produce food for the rest of us to eat.

Mount Pleasant Windmill (see first picture) is one of several working windmills in the county – along with our own local one (Heckington Windmill); I think they are brilliant, amazing things to have around us here.

Not surprisingly, I heard several jokes today about ‘only beef here.’ No one selling horse though; ostrich, but not horse.