New Internationalist

Cultivating the jardin

In the UK this has been a summer most people want to forget for a range of reasons: no British team in Euro 2008 (football), credit crunch and - perhaps above all - miserable weather which meant we couldn't get really nice and toasty and bask in the euphoria that comes with a sunny day. It's true that the British team did well at the Olympics but somehow this glow has not spread through us sufficiently to mitigate the downsider things. And lots of people are just not interested in 'sport'.

However, the garden does seem to have benefitted from the abundant rain. The fruit and veg have been and still are plentiful although we reckon that wood pigeons and squirrels are having population explosions now they have latched onto this excellent supply of fresh produce - why travel further to find tasty plums, apples, lettuces and so on. So bad has it been this year that even the dog has been accused of eating lettuces on the plant - she is an omnivore, it's true, but really does prefer lettuce with dressing.

The windfall cooking apples are being cooked up for winter's apple crumbles, chutneys and jam. The eaters with bruising and/or codling moth go into the fruit juicer which cleverly separates juice from compostable skin and core. The raspberries are in full flush and the dog and I share happy mouthfuls on the graze. Figs are peeping out modestly from behind their fig-leaves, and the grapes on the young vines look soon ready to pick (sadly not enough yet for wine, but make nice jam). Elsewhere maize plants stand tall and attractive, parsnips sport their beautiful greenery and runner beans keep running. It's all beautiful to see, and I don't mind sharing the bounty with the animals... but then I do not have to rely on my garden for food. It is wonderful to be able to eat fresh produce that you've just picked or gathered, and that you enjoy tending. Taking it indoors to wash and process, to transform it into a meal - this is all made so much more pleasant by the fact that you are doing it for pleasure, and that when the squirrels, or the pigeons (or the dog!) get there first, it is annoying but you can walk to the shop and buy what you need. How different it is for farmers, especially in the Majority World, who rely on their crops for food and income. No popping to the shop to buy the odd ingredients for a meal when the harvest has been drowned by floods, or scorched by sun in unprecedented 'extreme weather events' caused by global warming.

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