Harvest time: depressing but bringing new opportunities

Green tomato chutney

How often to psychologists – pop or serious – tell us: when one door closes, another opens? It’s the same with gardening.

It seems utterly depressing that most of the vegetation that was planted in the spring has now bloomed and died. We can feel proud it fed us and delight in the joy that many things we planted worked this summer, on patches of land. You know the drill: I say tomatoes, you say potatoes! Then there were beetroots, radishes, lettuces, cucumbers, courgettes, purple heritage beans and sweetcorn.

All came in varying degrees of success, depending on the weather, slugs, the consistency of the soil and the quality of the seeds.

I feel lucky that at least some of my peppers prospered – even if they did not grow particularly big.

Some of the potatoes lower down one of the bags seemed to have a scaly effect on them. Apparently this could be some sort of blight, just like the ones that have more pronounced nobbly bits on them.

These ailments are all described under the heading “scab”, which sounds serious, but these are often nothing to worry about. Peel them and the potatoes remain edible. Websites offer various “solutions” – in hindsight! It’s no good now telling me this is because they have had too much or too little water, or perhaps that the soil consistency was not correct. I used fresh, bought compost for such items. Each season, I learn from the past. I don’t expect it to turn out perfectly, or to feed me all winter. The joy of growing your own is to try something new and for it to remain an experiment and a hobby.

While it is a shame that autumn will soon be here and the summer vegetables – largely harvested – will not need so much attention, there has been a sense of new beginning.

The sadness of pulling the plants down is dampened by the plentiful crop, which brought new opportunities.

This year, for the first year, I made green tomato chutney with the multitude of green tomatoes that refused to ripen before the weather turned a little more chilly. (A week later, the house still has a lingering smell of the combination of onions, tomatoes, apples and vinegar that was the basis of the mix!)

Green tomato chutney under way!

Usually, we have some green tomatoes left on the plants, having had a fair amount of ones that turn red. This year, we have had an abundance of red ones. We have used them as soup, or the basis of a pasta source. And there are plenty left over. Tomatoes have abounded this year. Neighbours tell us so – all their friends who could never grown them before have managed this year.

This is, says the urban grapevine, because they have had the extra time this year to grow vegetables themselves. Plenty of people locally have made blackberry and apple jam – or multiple pies and crumbles from these foraged fruits. As many people have clearly reached for their cookbooks, for recipes they always wanted to try.

Perhaps these tales are a metaphor for our wider lives. Our normal movements have been restricted, as activities foreclosed for Covid. We have embraced new skills. We have taken a deep breath, taken that step back to take stock, and picked up latent, forgotten hobbies or those we always wanted to do.