Along with an absolute bounty of fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit, I’ve also seen my first hazelnut tree this week at my brother’s orchards in the Wairarapa. Oh gorgeousness, where have you been all my life? Picking up nuts from under the tree and cracking them open with a hammer has become a favourite pastime. As has been collecting cranberries. It’s a bit fiddly, as they are tiny, but they are sensational. Lynne taught me to eat them with the green tops on, and they taste sweet, tangy and fruity with distinct notes of thyme and mint. In short, irresistible. I’ve been eating blood peaches from the tree each day, and apples and gooseberries, and then there is the bean patch. We harvest half a kilo (about a pound) a day, which doesn’t include all those I eat. Tomatoes, potatoes, sweet corn, carrots, zucchini, pumpkins of all types, native spinach, cauliflowers, salad leaves and cucumbers galore. It’s harvest time! All the hard work is paying off for Pat and Lynne and lucky old me gets to come along and mow through the stuff like a hungry caterpillar. Ripening on the vines are blackberries and grapes, there are figs on the trees, loads of pears and more apples. So if the world threatens to come to an end, guess where I’m coming to hang out?
Talking about harvesting, there is one special artichoke that made it to harvest. Not here, but in Auckland, at Ilaria’s place. It was planted in a vegetable box. It was watered. It was nurtured. It grew. It was picked, just in time as it threatened to blossom. It deserved a right royal treatment. It was trimmed and halved. The choke – surprisingly developed for a little fella (it was ready to bolt into a thistle flower) – was scraped out with a teaspoon. The outer leaves were trimmed away. All that was left was the tiny heart (also known as the base or fond). It was sliced wafer thin, anointed with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with flaky sea salt and it was relished by three hungry people.
Get into gardening – a field, an orchard, a veggie pod, a planter box, a pot plant – it is so rewarding, and even a single tiny artichoke can be a triumph and cause for celebration.