It hasn’t been the easiest of seasons in Gloucestershire. Weird weather. My usual incompetence and absentmindedness, various distractions all made for a rather uneven year. The wonder of veg is that they seem happy enough to get on with the job of growing in spite of my lack of attention.
I made reference in the tomato, courgette & chard recipe to Zucchini Romanesco, the king among courgettes, (or zingiest among zucchini, the closest I can find to an appropriate alliteration). There is a misconception that the word Romanesco only applies to those pointy-headed, mustard-yellow broccolis, but all it means is that it hales from Rome or thereabouts. The zucchini is a handsome beast, heavily ridged on the outside. It may not be the heaviest cropper in the world (a quality I always find rather dubious anyway), but it has the finest flavour, with a delightful parslied freshness on top of an unusual meatiness, and has the fabulous quality of not dissolving into mush when you cook it. It remains firm and fine under fire.
Here we have Red Ace, Barbietola di Chioggia and Farono . If you like your beetroot red and earthy, then Red Ace is the chap. Farono is quite mild and delicate, with no sweetness that I could detect. And, the winner this year, once again, is the Barbietola di Chioggia, which has just the right balance of sweetness, freshness, earth and delicacy.
There was a time when carrots were my vegetable Achilles heel. No longer. They may win no prizes in the Uley Horticultural Olympics, but they give me much quiet pleasure. This year there were, going from left to right, James Scarlet Intermediate, Touchon and de Meaux. The James Scarlet is an old Victorian (1853) favourite, and my personal choice, cooked or raw. It gives you a full, perfumed carrot hit, and with a touch of sweetness. The Touchon was a decent Number 2, very firm and crisp, with a savory, almost Bovrilly biff. The de Meaux was really in the running in this exalted company, and lost its flavour when cooked.
I went all French this year, with a mixed bag of Amandine, Rosval and Charlotte (left to right). I was particularly keen on Rosval, a potato on which I’ve fallen with glad cries on the rare occasions I’ve come across it in the veg stalls or shops, not least for its fine red skin and firm texture. Charlotte is more common, and came as part of the job lot. I knew nothing about Amandine, and, in the event, it was the surprise package. There weren’t a lot of them, but what there were had an upright, compact texture, and a sweet nutty flavour. V jolly. The Charlotte was Ms Average – fair, decent, middle-of-road, middle order, fair-to-middling kind of potato. Rosval didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It was good enough, which wasn’t good enough, if you catch my drift, pretty as a picture, firm enough in the texture department, but where was the flavour? If only the eating quality had lived up to the looking quality, my potato challenge would have been over.
That’s pretty much it for this year. I’ve got a few winter salady things, but nothing serious.
But there’s always next year. The seed catalogues are already flopping on to the mat inside the front door, and I’m thinking, well, just may be next year – oh, hapless optimism.