Each day has its special moments, often unobtrusive and readily missed, yet filled with a deep sweet energy that can warm and nourish the heart. These moments can infuse other parts of the day in the same way that an arresting idea can. I rarely cut flowers but there was a stem of gladioli that was going to be ruined by the rains from Cyclone Cook last week so I cut it and popped it in a vase and it has been delighting me ever since. Last night I was feeling stressed about something and found that looking back at a photo I had taken of the gladioli was deeply calming:
Even the wilted flowers carry a richness of colour and texture, like some exotic butterfly with wings furled or a heavy brocade hanging, that arrests my eye:
The nights have been getting cold, deep as we are into autumn, so I closed off my dilapidated home-made mini tunnel house the day before yesterday, Yesterday was a golden day, a cloudless sky, the sun turning the leaves of the purple leaf plum into blazing glints of red flame. (I am always compelled to photograph this sight but haven’t yet been able to capture the magic that my eye sees.)
I undo the top right hand corner of the little tunnel house so I can test the air temperature inside. I’m met by a twirling chartreuse tendril from one of the Peruvian caigua. They bear a plump green curved fruit, shaped like a fat crescent moon. I pick then when they’re about an inch and a half long and either eat them straight off the vine or slice them raw into my salads. They add a fresh crunchy texture.
Air warm with the scent of tomato and the pepperiness of nasturtium wafts out. As I peer inside I can sense the sheer happiness of the plants and somehow that happiness seeps into my body as well.
The calendula blossoms are fully open this morning. They seem very responsive to light, often staying half closed if it’s clouded over, but now they are luxuriating flagrantly in the warmth and the sunlight ricocheting off the bubblewrap and into the tunnel house. It has been such a cool summer, the caigua – always a slow starter up here – has been struggling, and the tomatoes, though prolific, have seemed reluctant to ripen. The added warmth should speed up the process. Last year I had tomatoes through until mid-winter. This is the first time I have grown caigua under cover so perhaps it will extend its fruiting season too.
It is a fiddly business opening up the end of the tunnel house fully but I worry that the plants might cook as the morning grows warmer. Then in a moment of inspiration I realise I might be able to regulate the temperature sufficiently by just leaving the top right hand corner of the tunnel house open, and that proves to be correct. When I peer in again later I see that an enterprising bumblebee has found its way in through the gap and is rubbing its belly ecstatically over a constellation of tiny parsley flowers.
I always let my plants go to seed. I think it’s their due, to be able to complete their full life cycle, and they often reward me. I found that some French parsley I let go to seed last summer returned in force this summer, better even than in the previous year, whereas a plant I had purchased has been struggling. And I often add a young flower head or two to the mixed leaves I have at breakfast.
Yesterday morning while I was still out on the deck I gathered a sprig of tender parsley flower buds, several sage leaves, and some fronds of minutina, a hardy Italian herb with long dark green serrated leaves that I planted the previous summer and that has now resumed growing after some time off bearing seed. To these I added a couple of vibrant leaves from some narrow-leafed plantain that has sprung up here and there. The seeds are edible too, although I haven’t tried them. Psyllium comes from plantain seeds.
I stroll through the vege garden. The cos lettuce are going to seed in fine pagoda-like fashion but somehow still offer some vibrant looking young leaves that I can pluck, so I collect several of those:
The conditions this last summer seem to have suited the rosemary and the oreganum. They are so bursting with life that my eyes almost stutter as my gaze swings over them. They look so healthy – the oreganum seemingly intent on world domination – that they arrest my vision. I carefully pick some sprigs.
Because the tiny vege garden is fenced off from the wild rabbits it is one place where dandelions and yarrow can flourish. For the most part I let them have their way. I treasure tender young dandelion leaves in my salad and I enjoy watching the pleasure the honeybees take in the yarrow flowers . This morning I pick a few young yarrow flowers for my salad.
After looking miserable all summer some kale that I planted in the spring have suddenly come into their own and will likely take me through until next summer. Another lot, these ones self-sown, are just completing their seed cycle but somehow still offer up small but sweet leaves. I gather several leaves from both. My eye falls on a chard that has gone flagrantly to seed. It is covered in bursts of flower buds. They look so attractive and healthy that I pick one of those too.
Then I head back inside. After I have rinsed them I lay the larger leaves flat, one on top of the next, then layer in the smaller sprigs and leaves, roll the whole lot up into a bundle and and then slice them finely. I sprinkle the yarrow buds on top, and then add some of the micro-greens I grow inside – red cabbage, broccoli, black mustard and a few remaining sprigs of daikon radish.
Meanwhile I have steamed an egg – 7 minutes makes it soft-boiled. After I have shelled that, saving the shell for the compost, I add the egg, along with some avocado and a dash of cumin. Salt, pepper, a dash of olive oil, a few drops of apple cider vinegar and juice from a lemon I have grown in the tunnel house. The egg yolk is the colour of calendula petals. Another moment to savour.