I am starting to understand the challenges of growing. The fluctuating April temperatures are really keeping us busy. One day the concern will be keeping the tunnel warm, the next keeping it from overheating. Easter Sunday morning was so gloomy that I left the doors to the poly-tunnel closed. A quick look out of the window in a brief break in the busy lunch service saw the sun beating down, so abandoning ship I ran round to find the tunnel thermometer reading 45C and plants looking in need of a drink. A valuable lesson learnt. That said, the glorious sunshine of the last ten days has really helped and everything is looking healthy and kicking on.
Workload is heavy with sowing and potting on. Shoots of kohlrabi and cabbage are now outside acclimatising to life in the elements. We are harvesting the very first radishes – so delicious and sweet with just a hint of pepper! It’s great to be serving our first vegetables. Last Friday was wonderfully sunny so we planted out the herbs and we are hoping for a tremendous herb garden this summer. Having spent the last 8 years grafting inside, it appears my skin has become much more sensitive and I ended up back in the kitchen the same colour as the forced chard I had just harvested.
Sowing has to be my favourite job, whether it’s potatoes or jerusalem artichokes placed straight into the fields or tiny alpine strawberry seeds in cell trays. It’s a fun thing to do. My mind works in overdrive. When will it be ready? How many will we get? How long will I be able to have it on the menu? Will it preserve? How much will see us through winter? So many questions. I can’t wait to get stuck in – creating new dishes with the freshest ingredients.
With all the excitement of sowing and planting comes the frus,tration of waiting. The “Hungry Gap”, as we are so often reminded by Ken, is the months April to June when everything is growing but not a lot is actually ready. There are of course some ‘English’ ingredients available already. English strawberries and asparagus can be seen on many menus. Not mine! English strawberries in March are so often a soulless, insipid watery excuse for the berry which should be synonymous with our British summer. It’s such a shame to force ingredients to grow out of season if the results aren’t good. Having said this, Yorkshire Rhubarb is available between mid January and the end of March and am a big fan. It has protected status (PDO) and therefore it can’t be grown out of it’s own season. What makes it so special is that when it’s gone it’s gone. I think that by staying true to the seasonality of ingredients they are more special when they are ready. By the time the next year comes your longing to get your hands on them. This is the way it should be – allowing us to enjoy products at their absolute best.