A few months ago, in the midst of our homegrown courgette glut, I would never have imagined that the UK would soon be suffering from a shortage of the veg. I did chuckle as #CourgetteCrisis memes started circulating on social media with photographs of empty supermarket shelves and cries of “What am I meant to spriralise?”, although I do feel for the farmers in Spain whose crops have been ruined by adverse weather conditions, prompting the current shortage of courgettes, spinach and salad supplies here in the UK.
The courgette crisis perfectly illustrates how we’ve all forgotten to eat seasonally. Consumers expect to buy any kind of produce at any time of the year, and aren’t happy when they can’t get it.
As allotmenteers, Ade and I probably eat more seasonally than a lot of people, but it’s tough at this time of year. Don’t get me wrong, our leeks and onions and swede are serving us very well, but we still get hankerings for a fresh, green salad every so often, even in the middle of January. Which is where our friends, the microgreens, come in!
Rifling through Ade’s seed tin yesterday (a rare privilege indeed; he usually keeps it locked away in a bullet-proof safe guarded by an angry ninja), I came across an opened packet of ‘Ambassador’ pea seeds from last year. Ade will be trying out a new pea variety on the plot this year, so I was able to use these seeds to grow pea shoots. After soaking them in water for a few hours, I planted them in a tray of compost and will hopefully be harvesting the young shoots in a couple of weeks. I’ve grown them before and they’re one of my favourite salad greens: fresh, tender and sweet.
I also discovered a packet of white mustard seeds, so thought I’d sow those too, while I was at it.
Of course, growing anything indoors is much more of a challenge for us this year as, unlike previous years, we now have Agent Daisy to contend with. She has pretty much monopolised all the window sills.
So far, she’s managed to upend a tray of Ade’s lovingly-nurtured chilli seedlings, spilling compost all over the living room floor and destroying some of the plants in the process (he really wasn’t happy about that) and, judging by the way she glares at the potatoes which are currently chitting away in a box by the window, I think she’s plotting some kind of feline warfare against tubers. Even after I’d prepared the seed trays with compost for today’s microgreens, I returned to find her regally sitting in one, apparently claiming it as her new litter tray.
It’s not going to end well, is it? But if the supermarket salad shortage is really going to continue until spring, as some reports have said, I’ve got no choice but to grow my own winter salad leaves, whatever the perils.
Watch this space…