No, not a prelude to the pantomime season. I loathe pantomimes. Yes I do! Yes I do! Although the ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ folktale itself is quite compelling as a story, for me the magic of growing is a far more magical, and ultimately profitable, experience. Who wouldn’t be mesmerised by bean stalks curling their way around canes? Six foot, eight foot; sky high if you like! Delicate little plants that turn into sturdy, bountiful, bearers of long green pods that taste divine in all their beanie loveliness.
As a child I was always fascinated by anything you could grow from seed: the obligatory cress on the windowsill of course, but also flowers, tomatoes and many other wonders. My family weren’t hot on ‘grow your own’ even though we had a huge 160 foot garden, but somehow I got the bug. I’m not sure if it was uncle Ray’s veg patch or the allotments I spied from the other side of the park, but something lodged itself in my psyche.
I’ve never lost the utter wonder of growing something from seed, especially if it’s something edible! How do mammoth squash and courgettes emerge from tiny seeds, no bigger than a finger nail? How do huge leeks form from a black spec twist of peppercorn? It is nothing short of amazing. It doesn’t matter if I grow things from seed for decades, I don’t think I will ever stop being in awe of the determination of nature to shoot up and out – abounding abundantly.
I’m not particularly green-fingered. Not everything germinates, and not everything that germinates produces a crop. The runner beans were a disaster this year, and the courgettes missed the sunshine terribly (as we all did in this northern neck of the woods), but that didn’t stop a bountiful harvest, which as I write, approaches 180 kilos ..and counting.
I count myself lucky that I’ve always known where my food comes from – I know that peas don’t come from the freezer section of the supermarket, and I can identify a carrot or swede, or even more exotic delights such as aubergine. That’s because although my parents didn’t grow fresh vegetables, we did buy and eat them, usually from the local market. It’s heartening to see projects such as food for life teaching young people where food comes from, getting them involved in cooking, eating, and even growing it. It’s perhaps sad that we need such
initiatives. In an age where we can be so disconnected from nature, encouraging people to ‘grow their own’, and giving more children the opportunity to experience the power and wonder of nature first hand can still provide that little bit of magic. O yes it can!