TE RADAR RADAR’S RANT

Element - - Efficient Energy -

MThe joys of grow­ing one’s own veges are wear­ing a bit thin, while the de­light of easy-pick­ings at the su­per­mar­ket grow – un­like Te Radar’s cauliflowers. y cauliflower has bolted. It’s yet another sign of the pre­car­i­ous grasp we both have on ex­is­tence. Had I been wait­ing for it to ma­ture into much-needed sus­te­nance, I would in­stead now be try­ing to fig­ure out what to do with cauliflower stalks while con­tem­plat­ing down­siz­ing my pants.

The plant that spon­ta­neously goes to seed is the per­fect metaphor for the gar­den­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s na­ture do­ing what na­ture does, much to the frus­tra­tion of those of us who dare to hope we can con­trol it.

Gar­den­ing is a rich mix of dili­gent ef­fort fol­lowed by frus­tra­tion, con­fu­sion, sun­burn and soiled hands. Re­gard­less, we per­se­vere be­cause of the sim­ple plea­sures and the lessons that the many tasks of grow­ing bring us.

In an age where con­sumerism means you don’t have to leave your bed to or­der almost any­thing in the world, read­ing on the back of a packet of seeds that the ex­pected time to ma­tu­rity is 120 days is almost in­com­pre­hen­si­ble.

In the ex­cite­ment of the gar­den cen­tre the tiny seedlings, or the seeds with lush por­traits of pro­duce em­bla­zoned on the pack­ets, look so full of prom­ise. Maybe you can find some­thing to do with zucchinis? Yams seem in­ter­est­ing. Kale! Okay, maybe not kale. Fill all the gar­den! Plant all the things!

Gar­den­ing recre­ates the dra­matic feast and the famine cy­cles of old (I say that with the pom­pos­ity of a mid­dle- Gar­den­ing is a rich mix of dili­gent ef­fort fol­lowed by frus­tra­tion, con­fu­sion, sun­burn and soiled hands. class first-world ex­is­tence). For weeks, there’s noth­ing but the ex­pec­ta­tion of some­thing.

The time gives you a chance to get used to the fact that your vegetables won’t be as per­fect as the ones in store. Yours will be smaller, or larger, blem­ished, gnarled and of­ten nib­bled.

Gar­dens are bat­tle­fields. If it’s not the el­e­ments or mus­cu­lar, tena­cious weeds, it’s the birds and but­ter­flies, slugs, snails, toi­let­ing cats, the oc­ca­sional goat and rab­bits. I once no­ticed a rab­bit hole dug un­der a raised gar­den bed. It an­gled up un­der my car­rots.

Like an episode of Bugs Bunny, I en­vis­aged the rab­bit gnaw­ing all but the tops of the car­rots from un­der­neath, yet the sev­eral I pulled up were still per­fectly in­tact, al­beit ex­tremely short. Even the rab­bit, hav­ing put in the ef­fort, turned his twitch­ing nose up at my pro­duce.

Then there is the glut caused by all of those seedlings you planted one eu­phoric spring af­ter­noon ripen­ing at once. Ki­los of toma­toes, cu­cum­bers, and zucchinis that mirac­u­lously quadru­ple in size overnight pile up, de­mand­ing not to be al­lowed to rest in the vege bin of the fridge un­til their only use is com­post and they feed only the soil from whence they came.

May I po­litely sug­gest not keep­ing a run­ning tally of the cost of seeds and seedlings and com­post and pot­ting mix, and hose fit­tings and weed-mat and edg­ing and im­ple­ments and wa­ter bills. Why? Be­cause by the time your crops ripen, your pro­duce will never be cheaper to buy at su­per­mar­kets and fruit shops ev­ery­where.

But try­ing to grow some­thing of your own will make you re­alise just how thank­ful we should be that there are ex­perts out there to do it for us. The next time you are in a su­per­mar­ket take the time to linger lov­ingly in the pro­duce depart­ment. Mar­vel at the mar­rows. Be­hold the beans. Ca­ress the cauliflower. Wash your hands first.

Look­ing at the cauliflowers that I ten­derly trans­planted from a cheap su­per­mar­ket seedling pun­net some weeks ago, I’m con­vinced the few that haven’t bolted are ac­tu­ally cab­bages. It’s per­plex­ing. On the pos­i­tive side, they haven’t gone to seed and will be a fine al­ter­na­tive to cauliflower. That’s gar­den­ing.

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