gardening · recipes

Leaves

If you consider yourself an entry-level gardener, then you simply cannot go wrong by kick-starting your vegetable plot with a row of verdant lettuce.

When tomatoes are barely flowering and beans are just beginning to wrap their tendrils around the rungs of their frame, at least that lovely row of lettuce seedlings that were planted at the very same time (all those weeks ago) have produced a satisfying harvest. This is my gardening impatience coming to the fore, when after daily watering and nurturing, there does not seem to be proportional output from the plot. If a lettuce can be brought to the table in the early phase of the season, that is sufficient to stave off any disquiet and fuel expectancy for the next plants to yield.

Given plenty of water, sunlight and some fertile earth, lettuce, no matter what the variety, is a sure-fire way to build a budding gardener’s confidence. For those who simply cannot wait for their crop to reach maturity, there can be sneaky snips of external leaves, to be brought inside for last-minute salads or into the lunchtime rolls. This actually encourages growth.

To keep a ready supply of lettuce, when the first row have reached adolescence, start off a second row of babies. By the time the adolescents are adult cropping size, your third row of babies can go in. This way, you will have lettuce for your brood and that of every neighbour in your street. Passing surplus vegetables onto friends and neighbours is every bit as rewarding as harvesting for yourself.

In a perfect world, everything on our plate would be grown in our backyard, but that world isn’t quite the one we inhabit right now. However, if you can sit down to a meal with at least one constituent, whose only footprint was rendered from your muddy gumboot, then that is coming close enough in my book.

Postscript: Our mignonettes have all been consumed now, and we are about to start on some crispy icebergs. Had thoughts of a caesar salad the other day, so Cos might have to be next.