It’s the weirdest thing. You grow vegetables in order to eat them, right? How is it, then, that when the time comes to pick, the knife can hover over them, poised for the kill, but waver in vacillation?
I’m not, like Villandry (above), in the business of growing vegies for their visual appeal (though they’re undeniably pretty).
So you’d think that the harvest would be relatively dilemma-free. But detection of distant, quietly rumbling dilemmas is something of a superpower of mine (being of the conviction that I don’t actually face any more dilemmas than the average, I’m just better at detecting their presence and bolder (or stupider) about confessing them), and there’s a few (very small) hurdles that get in my way when its time to pick.
Firstly, there’s the questions – is this the best time to pick? Should I wait a bit longer? I’m rarely tempted to pick before anything has reached, say 80% of its size potential. The trouble is that at this stage of their growth, they’re often growing like the clappers, and if you don’t start eating into a crop earlyish, it’s probable that some of it will be past its best, possibly even inedible, by the time you get to it.
Carrots I sowed back in August (to roaring success, thanks to my new winter-sowing theory that took a mere 30 years of gardening to think up) were really too small to eat about a fortnight ago. We ate some of the thinnings, but they were tiny, and hilariously fussy to prepare. Now the biggest of the carrots are at serious eating size, and I’m starting to panic about whether we’ll get through them while they’re still at their best. And then there’s the later crop racing along behind. It’s freaky.
Likewise the beetroot (sown 25-9-14). We ate some weeny baby ones a couple of weeks back, though it felt like a bit of a waste. They’ve positively ballooned since, and now I’m thinking that half the crop will be oversized and woody by the time we get to them.
But once I’m past that dilemma, the next, and bigger, one looms. Now this is really lame, but I’ve got to acknowledge it. I often hesitate over picking, simply because I don’t want to spoil the look of fullness – of spilling abundance – that is so much of the charm of a good vegie garden. I mean, I’ve nurtured these plants for months, protecting them here, and nudging them along there, and their success – there for all to see – is an (albeit minor – lets keep things in perspective) source of pride. It’s worse still when they’re all in nice, evenly spaced, highly geometric rows. I know I’m going to spoil it eventually, for the vegies must be eaten, but is now the right moment?
Moments later the job is done, and I’m heading for the kitchen.