Bitter & twisted
It takes a lot for me to grow any cucurbit at all, let alone a bitter one. Jenny Somervell has got me pondering if I need to reset my taste buds and general animosity towards them (see page 70).
My negative outlook was caused by the trauma of working in glasshouses with cucumber plants for several years while in my teens. I never read The Day of the Triffids because I’m pretty sure it would have given me nightmares. It was bad enough working in 40°C heat and 100% humidity. But when it feels like you can almost see the plants growing – some days you would tie up the top, then have to go and repeat it 12 hours later because 30cm of plant was drooping – and you swear they are reaching out to grab you, a story about plants taking over the world would have been too much.
But bitter melons look pretty intriguing. It also seems hard to imagine something called ‘bitter’ could be edible – the grower Jenny has profiled (see page 12) readily admits they’re not his cup of tea. But he’s making himself a living growing the unusual vegetables that customers, especially those who are more recent immigrants to this country, want to eat.
I am definitely all about testing new and wondrous things but Shane takes it a whole new level, buying seeds from a Chinese language seed catalogue and hoping it’s right (sometimes it’s not!). I love that he’s doing something creative, specialising, starting small, slowly going larger scale, being flexible, and learning all the time. For me, it’s one of the best parts of the life we’re privileged to lead.