Seeds and Stories

Greenhouse writing room

When is  a greenhouse not a greenhouse? When it becomes a writing space. Back in June, here in Ireland, we had lots of rain and it was all a bit miserable and unseasonal and I just longed to write outdoors. And then found that I could, sort of, in the greenhouse. This was before the tomato plants grew to such a size that they took over. But for those couple of weeks it was a writing haven.

On New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2012, I completed my Irish Seedsavers order form, looking forward to another growing season. It seemed an appropriate way to close the year, by throwing forward an anchor into the new. Irish Seedsavers does admirable work collecting and saving seeds and then distributing them so that more of us can experience the magic of growing and eating real food. But most of all it lives its mission, diversity in food and the active promotion of biodiversity. I love browsing their catalogue, to me it’s more like a storybook. It’s so full of interesting titbits and stories about how the seeds were saved or discovered and made their way to their base in Capparoe, Co. Clare and I also become aware of the links between seed banks around the world.

I couldn’t resist ordering seed potatoes called ‘Tibet’, brought back from a market in Nepal by one Mecky Beggan, and seed potatoes called ‘Bolivia Yellowhesh’, originally from Bolivia as you might expect from the name, and sent to Irish Seedsavers by the wonderfully named Lost Gardens of Heligan. What else couldn’t I resist? A courgette called ‘Syrian White’ which was given to a seed collector in Holland by a Syrian refugee; an onion called ‘James Long Keeping’ which was written about by the RHS in 1819, (surely the smell as you pull an onion from the ground has to be one of the best smells); a lettuce called ‘Veneziana’; a tomato called ‘Lucky Leprechaun’ which the catalogue tells me is an Irish heirloom dating back to the 1900’s. I had heard of Woad and thought of it simply as a blue dye used by Ancient Britons. But there it is in the catalogue, available as a seed, and I won’t reproduce the full description here, but when I read this sentence, ‘long succulent leaves which shine like stained glass; with inner immanent blue, foamy clusters and brilliant yellow flowers; pendant fiddle shaped seeds’ I just had to order it. Who wouldn’t want to have that kind of beauty in a vegetable garden?

On New Year’s Day (real gardeners look away now!) I finally dug in the red clover that I had sown months ago as a green manure. I had clipped it down after it had flowered ( the flowers are very pretty, a deep crimson) but I hadn’t got around to the final stage of digging it in to enrich the soil. It was very satisfying to be outside on such a significant day and to see what was happening at ground level, including lovely wriggling worms, some of the best, most tireless helpers in the garden.


The broad beans are now up a few inches above ground level

Broad Beans on New Year's Day 2013and will later in the year be eaten ‘with … tastes of the beginnings of the green part of the year’, as Tamar Adler describes it in her book ‘An Everlasting Meal’.

I pulled the last of the beetroot and just look at that glorious magenta colour,

Beetrootand I might make a beetroot cake, think carrot cake but with beetroot, or perhaps a jar or two of beetroot chutney which tastes really good with some goats’ cheese.

And so it continues … Happy New Year to all of you and I hope you sow some seeds, that writing ideas germinate and that you find ways to nurture your creative self in the coming months and spend some time with things that won’t be rushed.

3 responses

  1. […] regular readers will know this blog sometimes takes to the outdoors, finding inspiration in digging and tending and generally spending some time with things that just […]

  2. We just pulled the last of our beets from our polytunnel and made it into a beetroot cocoa cake. I am half inclined to set up shop out there this week to get a bit of peace and quiet from the kids!

    1. Go for it Mona! I love it and I’m not even escaping from kids 😉 And your beetroot cocoa cake sounds very yum …

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