Sub­sis­tence farm­ing, North Cir­cu­lar-style

The Jewish Chronicle - - FEATURES - YADA YADA SI­MON ROUND

AGE­NIUS THOUGHT oc­curred to me a few months ago (ac­tu­ally it oc­curred to my wife, but see­ing as I am the colum­nist, we will pre­tend it oc­curred to me). I (un­like my chil­dren ) like veg­eta­bles. Also I have quite a large gar­den which is home only to a few daf­fodils, a tulip or two and quite a large num­ber of squir­rels.

If I was to use the gar­den to grow veg­eta­bles then we would be us­ing the space more pro­duc­tively. I would also be con­tribut­ing in a very small way to the strug­gle to make our planet a greener place. I would be pro­vid­ing fresh, or­ganic pro­duce for the chil­dren to turn their noses up at and I would not be pay­ing through the nose for fruit and veg which has prob­a­bly been sit­ting in a cold store for months.

There were, as I saw it, only two prob­lems with the plan. The first was that as a Jew whose an­ces­tors moved from shtetl to ghetto, there is not a huge amount of agri­cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence in the fam­ily. Dur­ing my few months on kib­butz, I did work in the fields grow­ing ba­nanas and pick­ing or­anges, but I doubt th­ese are fruit we could suc­cess­fully pro­duce in the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity of the North Cir­cu­lar.

The sec­ond was to de­cide what to grow. My first idea was to go for the kind of up­mar­ket veg­eta­bles that you tend to pay a lot for at the su­per­mar­ket — things like as­para­gus and mange tout. Then I looked in the veg­etable-grow­ing man­ual and re­alised that the rea­son th­ese veg­eta­bles are so ex­pen­sive is that they are rather fid­dly to grow, par­tic­u­larly if you are a be­gin­ner whose green-fin­gered ex­ploits are con­fined to buy­ing lit­tle pots of liv­ing basil from the su­per­mar­ket.

It is ap­par­ently easy to grow things like carrots, pota­toes and other root veg­eta­bles, which might ex­plain why Ashke­nazi Jews have tra­di­tion­ally eaten them in large quan­ti­ties. How­ever, how ex­cited can you get about cul­ti­vat­ing spuds and beets? I wanted crops with more glam­our.

Even­tu­ally, a list of fea­si­ble veg­eta­bles was drawn up. We would grow toma­toes, radishes and rocket and would also try our hand at a lit­tle sprout­ing broc­coli just for the buzz.

So far it is go­ing very well. Lots of lit­tle tomato plants are flour­ish­ing in a plant prop­a­ga­tor on the win­dowsill (yes, it’s all get­ting quite tech­ni­cal). The radishes also seem to be flour­ish­ing in the veg­etable plot, as is the rocket. In­deed, the way things are go­ing at the mo­ment I might be able to have at least one com­pletely home­grown salad come Au­gust.

OK, so we are not quite in The Good Life ter­ri­tory here, but I am quite warm­ing to my new per­sona as a horny handed son of the soil. I had half an idea that, given spi­ralling ce­real prices, I might even sow a lit­tle wheat in the flower bed, al­though the quan­tity of whole­meal flour I would man­age to har­vest from it would prob­a­bly only be suf­fi­cient to make a roll to go with my salad.

There will also be sun­flow­ers so that I might make my own sun­flower oil (any­one know how you get the oil out of a sun­flower?), and per­haps a rub­ber plant so that I can man­u­fac­ture my own ra­di­als. Per­haps in due course I might even raise a few head of cat­tle at the end of the far meadow by the fence that di­vides us from num­ber 73.

Any­way, in the mean­time, I am look­ing for­ward to my salad and rev­el­ling in the fact that grow­ing rocket is not af­ter all rocket science.

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