At 5.30pm yesterday I didn’t much like the idea of picking my own fruit. I still didn’t like the idea this morning as I crawled out of bed with a head as heavy as my heart. I clung to the hope that it would be rained off but Wifey seemed to have already made a financial commitment and so, despite a few weak, residual protests we found ourselves standing in field, very much picking our own, the democracy I had hoped our marriage would be ripped apart and exposed under pecks of drizzle from a mucky sky. It wasn’t all that bad in honesty, though I’ve never liked the name ‘pick your own’ because what it really means is ‘pick our own so we don’t have to, and then pay us’, though I’d be the first to admit that doesn’t quite have the same zing to it. Either way we picked and picked and picked and then, just when we thought we had finished picking, we left.
Pick Your Own season has only just started in earnest and so our options were pretty limited in terms of what and where we could pick. Any assumption that you are just free to roam, do as you please and pick as you like can be firmly trampled into the topsoil. Indeed picking your own is as commercial and as ruthless as it gets and there is not even the faintest whiff of romance to it – just line after line of elevated strawberries growing by the tens of thousands, half of which had probably already been fingered thoughtfully by someone else before being rejected as not quite having that textbook strawberry look. And that’s fair enough because let’s face it: the strawberry is one of natures prettiest little things so if you’re going to pick one yourself you may as well avoid the John Merrick and go for the Ryan Gosling instead (strawberries and Ryan Gosling, I’m not the alpha male I used to be).
Two rather large punnets of strawberries later and we were ready to move on. Between us we know that by the end of the week we’ll be sick of the bloody things and won’t be able to give them away fast enough, but for now they feel almost like an achievement. How sad. Onward to the beetroot (a not altogether worthless vegetable but it does itself no favours when a beetroot heavy diet makes you think you have cancer of the arsehole). The farm had only been open a few hours but in that time one end of the rather modest beetroot patch already looked like the site of some Napoleonic massacre. Beetroot and been wrenched from the ground and then tossed aside either for being too big or not big enough. As we walked along some cretin was kicking one particularly muscular specimen about like a football, which seemed quite cruel and I wished he had been buried in the ground in its place. To our credit we chose carefully and apart from one funny looking bugger we kept what we pulled and bagged them before the tears became too much. As we wandered over to crop three of three we passed massed ranks of raspberry plants just starting to do lunges in preparation for a red crush frenzy in a few weeks time. No doubt we’ll be there, especially if I say I don’t want to go.
Crop three was broad beans, something my Grandad grew in abundance in his garden and which, like almost all vegetables, I have virtually no time at all for. Here is a recipe of mine for Broad Bean and Bacon Sandwich Surprise: 1. Place two peeled broad beans on the side of a plate. 2. Grill six rashers of unsmoked streaky bacon. 2. Prepare two slices of decent bread, fresh as it can come. 3. Place the bacon on one of the slices of bread and use the other to create a sandwich. 4. Eat the sandwich. 5. Throw the broad beans in the bin (that’s the surprise, for the broad beans). Fortunately the broad beans had not been planted in vain and they provided an exciting space for little kids wearing wellies to thrash about in uncontrollably as their hapless parents pretended that they had a clue what they were doing with their lives. Wonderful. And that was it. We pulled our stupid trolley to the pay shed, grabbed a few gooseberries (I am not not convinced I have eaten a gooseberry since I was about twelve) and coughed up whatever extortion it was for our fresh fruit ‘n’ veg. It was a small experience and a first for me, and so I thought I’d share it with you. If you shout and wave I’ll toss you a few leftovers for your trouble.
G B Hewitt. 27.06.2021