06 Nov Ugly Vegetables Anybody ?
November is Comedy Vegetable Month, where often means ugly vegetables make their appearance on the Dinner plate
Nothing brightens your day like a carrot with a cheeky protuberance or a potato that’s a dead ringer for Matt Lucas from Little Britain. Buying unusual-looking fruit and veg is not only enormously good fun, but also saves money, too, because they’re classed as imperfect. However dismiss them as second-rate at your peril.
Mad Dogs and European Technocrats
Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that the majority of fruit and veg on our supermarket shelves looks like something from a beauty pageant: perfectly formed, shiny and possibly a little empty headed? No wonder, then, that we see knobbly, dirty, scuffed produce, like our human counterparts as second-class citizens.
However some would say that a little dirt makes them taste even better, and that beneath their characterful and eccentric appearance, these quirky beauties are every bit as delicious and wholesome as their conventionally shaped human counterparts. (Maybe even more so).
These days we are all crying out for things that are more natural – so lumps, bumps and even the odd nibbled leaf are the way forward, people.
However, deep within the belly of Brussels, EU regulations have had farmers in a stranglehold for nearly a generation, decreeing that 36 of our most popular fruits and vegetables had to conform to ridiculous strict rules on colour, size, and shape. ie, to be legally sold, those that don’t meet Class I or II beauty pageant standards have to be labelled as ‘for processing’, or ‘animal food’. However worst of all of course most end up on the rubbish tip – which is dreadful, as there’s absolutely nothing unwholesome about the fruit and veg per se.
Then why is this a problem?
Consigning all this perfectly good produce to the dump is madness. We must allow our farmers to sell all of their good-quality produce. Then logically, prices should come down, making it easier for everyone to give the family their fifteen to twenty-a-day of seasonal fruit and veg. With food inflation predicted to soar by up to 9 per cent in the run-up to Christmas and all of us feeling the pinch, that would be good news, wouldn’t it?
November is awash with funny looking vegetables, root vegetables like swedes and parsnips sweeten in the November frost, while the Jerusalem Artichokes is the ugliest vegetable I know. Kohlrabi which has only recently dared to show its face at a polite society dinner is my personal fave.
As the festive season approaches more attractive and certainly more empty headed natural produce come to the fore: chestnuts, clementines and passion fruit are easy to come by. It’s also the season for the love-hate Brussels sprout, more about this in just a moment…
Pots at the ready, it’s time to get cooking with November’s seasonal food:
November’s seasonal food is awash with veg that love a nip of frost, especially celeriac and kale. Cabbage, Pumpkin and Squash, Pomegranates, Apples Swede, Sweet potato, parsnips, and Beet root all state a good case, as are Jerusalem Artichokes, Kohlabri, and the humble sprout.
What to plant in November
Redcurrants are well worth the effort. They are versatile and provide fruit for summers to come. Although you’ll have to wait for your second summer to enjoy the first fruit. In the meanwhile, their small salad leaves can be ready in less than a month.
Fresh sprigs can be used to decorate summer desserts or to make into jelly or sauces. Redcurrants are undemanding plants and don’t need much space in the garden. You can grow them against a wall or fence, in a patio pot, or even in a semi-shaded spot – they will need to be fastened to a cane or fence.
• Each plant will need a 45cm length of fence or a 38cm pot. Apparently, they can grow to 1.5m high when planted in the ground! (Mine have only just been planted, chez James).
• Find a patch of earth, and remove weeds and add compost or some kind of soil improver. There are plenty to choose from.
• Around the end of June the first summer, and each subsequent summer, prune the side shoots back, leaving about five leaves on each. In winter, shorten them again to about 3cm.