TE RADAR RADAR’S RANT
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.