Thursday, June 28, 2007

It’s Rocket Science Jim …

… but not as we know it. Struggling against my upbringing, since the 1970’s I have had a keen interest in food. More so after I left home at the age of eighteen, when I found myself ill prepared. But that’s a long tale. Plus of course it does my mother a disservice. Its not that she was a bad cook. She wasn’t at all. But she was a girl brought up on a ration book with a firm belief that if a vegetable wasn’t boiled properly it might corrupt an innocent mind.
Where’s this off to? I was lucky. In 1974 I went on a school exchange for a month. The French family I stayed with opened my eyes to another world. Olive oil that had uses beyond the medicinal. Red meat that wasn’t overcooked, or even cooked at all. Salads that you could taste and no salad cream. An interesting proportion of the families food came from just outside the front door as well. Rabbits, chickens, fresh vegetables and herbs travelled from the end of the garden to the kitchen.
Oh it worked both ways. My exchange partner, still one of my closest friends over thirty years later, learned things to. He loved gravy, steak and kidney pie, apple crumble, trifle, bacon and eggs and the way that the British could sit down for a meal and get up from the table less than an hour later.
As years have passed I have enjoyed growing things outside my kitchen door as well. In particular herbs and salads.
A couple of years ago I got my hands on some delicious peppery rocket from a WI garden sale. The pungent green leaves dress up well on their own but are also delicious with soft red tomatoes and a bit of olive oil. The plant did really well and by cropping it regularly it stretched throughout the summer. Eventually I let it go and there were a few yellow flowers followed by seeds that I gathered and dried them out on top of my garden table. I was worried you see that a cold winter or some vigorous slugs and snails might see it off.
I needn’t have worried. I sowed two rows in the secret vegetable garden this spring and I think everyone of a thousand seeds did well. I can’t get rid of the stuff fast enough now.
A few seeds fell from the table when I was collecting as well. In the photo above you can see where they hit the floor. What with that and the stuff in the veg patch I could start a business.


headless chicken said...

Ooooh, I wish you lived near me, I'd blag loads off you....I love rocket but have to settle for Sainsburys pre-packed organic stuff...not quite the same! No veggy patch or herb garden for me, my fingers are definately not green, unfortunately! The only plant-life that has survived in my care is an indestructable ancient spider plant!:\

dl said...

Headless, have some more of our mint. PLEASE.

Meredic, ditto HC's comment, I'd be round like a flash to help solve the problem of your rocket surplus. And ditto again, S's and my fingers are not the remotest bit green. The only things which seem to grow abundantly round us are the lawn, the weeds which sprout from the drive, the walls, the steps... and the bloody MINT. (Apologies, Headless, for the various potplants: generously given; ungenerously slaughtered).

Fi said...

I love it when plants self seed, edible or no :) Foxgloves, corncockles, corn poppies- where most people might pull them up I leave them to do their business. It makes for a wild and interesting garden.

Maybe you should start a small box scheme with your surplus veg? They're all the rage.

PS love the Asbo and squirrel photo - I hope you made a good stew from the wee pest.

Sally Lomax said...

I love rocket too..

As for vegetables .... ours were like that as children too. Hubby described my mother's cauli as puree in a cauli shape. Quite clever really.

RE DL's commnet, we actually have alot...ALOT of rosemary growing too and we do have a bay tree which we haven't managed to kill..

buffalodickdy said...

I grew up in USA of Dutch immigrants. Boil it to death, roast until grey, fry until tough- who needs more spices than salt or black pepper? Desserts were good-the thought of them kept us going thru the meal. I discovered as a teen-ager you had a world of choices in food if you would take a chance. 250+ cookbooks later, I still like to take a chance!

sablonneuse said...

Oh yes it's so true. My mum and gran always boiled veg to a soggy mess and cooked meat for hours and hours. They were given a gallon can of olive oil during the war and the only use they knew of was a warm teaspoonful down your ear. That can sat around for years until they finally threw it out.
Like you, I discovered meat could be edible when I first visited France. However, my parents were always sending their meat back to be 'cooked properly'. Ooops

me said...

i love rocket but the weather is so miserable all i can dream of is stew and dumplings.

meredic said...

headless chicken – I may be able to help you. She Of The Town House is hitting the Offas Dyke trail again next week and will be staying in Usk for three nights. I could send a bag of rocket if you like.

dl – see above plus mint goes really well in salads you know. Or mint tea.

fi - yes I have loads of nice little golden fennel plants that started the same way as well. I am afraid that the only think I could have made with that squirrel by the time I got it back was a thin burger.

sally – ah dear me yes. I thought cauliflower was a type of sauce for many years. How did your mother manage to get it to hold its shape?

buffalodickdy – I am pleased its not just me and not just the UK. Yes I am now of the ‘try anything’ persuasion as regards food and cooking. I will make a lot of it up as I go alongthough.

sabloneusse – The warm olive oil poured in the ear. Oh yes!. And I still wonder if it really did any good. I suppose it made you think twice about complaining again….

me – you know what? With all that I said above I too am a fan of stew and dumplings. Stew simmered until the old tough cuts are melting tender and then herbs from the garden chopped and mixed with proper suet and flour. Yummy!

Righto, thank you all for sharing your thoughts on food. Off to a wedding this afternoon so better get some superglue on my shoes to stop the rain coming in. I shall send a bag of rocket to Usk if there is sufficient nods of the head and contact you via email for a precise drop off point. Oh dear, lets hope that this isn’t picked up as ‘chatter’ and mistaken for a plot…….

Jayne said...

I'm lways impressed when anyone grows anything in their gardens. My Dad used to grow a lot on an allotment. My garden is too small to grow anything unfortunately. One thing I so used to love was fresh mint. At least that is easy to grow!
I am however very good at growing mould on fruit in the fruit bowl. Does that count?

headless chicken said...

That would be lovely! I'm definitely up for a bag of rocket. I will post pictures of us all eating some:)
Sally and I both live about 26 miles from Usk.

meredic said...

jayne - if you are crafty with mint then you can have a secret mint patch. It will hold its own quite well against nettles and grass so just plant a bit out in a field near where you live. Most people wont know what it is. As well as for potatoes and mint sauce I love mint in salads. It also gives a nice tang to strawberries or melon.

headless chicken - I have sent three small rockets south. Plus a wee baggie of the stuff as well. If you figure a round trip of 50 odd miles is really worth it then you must have some. I shall send instructions.