Coun­try Mouse

Rime and rea­son

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

THIS year, the parsnips you serve up on Christ­mas Day will taste bet­ter than last year’s. So, too, will the car­rots, Brussels sprouts and leeks. Why? The sur­pris­ing an­swer is frost, which turns the starch in the veg­eta­bles into su­gar. Re­cently, we have been blessed with sev­eral freez­ing nights—it was –7˚C in Hamp­shire last week, which, com­pared to the damp and miz­zling warmth of last year, has been a boon to farm­ers.

Frost’s good work doesn’t stop there. Al­though fewer than 10% of the world’s plants are re­sis­tant to it, a good num­ber of those make up the ma­jor­ity of our gar­den plants and all our na­tive ones. Many of our fruit trees ben­e­fit from a pe­riod of cool­ing to en­hance the fol­low­ing year’s fruit­ing.

Frost is a great cleanser—it breaks up the soil and acts as a purga­tive on slugs, rats, mice, viruses and gar­den pests such as aphids and white­fly. Crit­i­cally, a pro­longed bout may hold back the march of the diseases de­stroy­ing our beloved ash and oak trees.

Of course, freez­ing weather cre­ates ex­tra jobs for the farm­ers and mor­tal dan­ger for many of our song­birds, but it has a vi­tal role to play in the over­all health of our coun­try­side. MH

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