I've recently returned from the Leonard Cohen concert in Christchurch, and I'm still on a high! That 79 year old icon of pop-poetry still runs (and skips and dances) onto the stage, sings for a solid four hours, and has his audience crying out for more at the end of the show. Leonard may have been around forever, but we still can't get enough of him. And, what's more, he's a great reminder that it's possible to be old but still sexy!
Which isn't a bad way to approach food gardening, especially when we find ourselves longing for, and lusting over, novelty edibles. I would give my eye teeth to grow a tamarillo or avocado, or to have a passionfruit vine trailing around my deck. But the fact is, that in my southern climate, it's just not possible. Just as the would-be Auckland berry grower weeps at the sight of another round of fungus on her fruit, I have to accept that carrots, parsnips, leeks, gooseberries and all that other fine Scottish-type of produce is what I do best. And what's more, with a little lateral thinking, it can also be sexy!
Take my gooseberries, for instance. This week, I harvested around 20 kilos of them. A fair portion went into the freezer for winter use in pies and crumbles (delicious, but pretty much standard fare here in South Otago). The rest, however, are the equivalent of a tight, low-cut little black dress – sex-y as! With the addition of fresh bay leaves, the gooseberry jam took on a whole new flavour. The elderflower and gooseberry conserve is equally interesting but much more feminine. And the spicy Indian gooseberry chutney, infused with the flavours of cinnamon stick, whole all spice, cloves, and cardamom, is seductively Eastern. I blush when I think of what I have planned for my swede turnips!
If you are struggling with inspirational ideas to hot up your old favourites, I suggest you search for recipes from countries which share your own climatic conditions. If you're in the far-south, and rolling your eyes at the thought of another broad bean, spread your wings and fly east to the likes of Romania, Albania, and Turkey. Or go completely left-field and visit your library for a book of Japanese recipes. If you're in warmer climes and you're over Mediterranean dishes, Google what they're eating in India, the Pacific, or South America. You're almost certain to find that you have the ingredients for a delicious and foreign dish right outside your door. If you don't, your research my lead you into growing a whole new range of climatically-suited vegetables (after visiting Greece for years, a large part of my garden is now given over to a range of chicories). The thing is, never say your produce is too familiar to be sexy because, believe me, if you could see Leonard live, you'd know it isn't true!