At this time of the year the farm routine shifts up a gear. As we approach mid-summer; the newly emerged green of spring becomes the rampant and vigorous growth of summer. Our workload is doubled as the weeds gain vigour and threaten to overwhelm our more sedate crops.
Apart from the constant weeding, our planting and harvesting is doubled as demand increases. Summer also brings what I call the paradox of lettuce to this part of the world. It is summer; so salad is increasingly the dish of choice. Stores and restaurants clamour for more lettuce, but the lettuce will not play ball.
This is the most difficult time to grow lettuce. Not only have the weeds to be kept at bay but the rising temperatures induce bolting in lettuce. As soon as a lettuce bolts the chemistry in the leaves changes, making them bitter. Whole fields can be lost in one day. So we have a drop in lettuce production and a rise in demand.
In winter it is the other way around. Lettuce grows best in the cooler weather; but no one thinks of a salad on a chilly winter day.
My favourite vegetables at this time are the squash family. This year we tried out some Patty Pans. The plants reward you each morning with a fresh crop of exquisite yellow fruits, and if you do not pick them each morning will double in size by the next day.
Last year we grew Atlantic Giant pumpkins for a competition. My largest pumpkin weighed in at about 45kg, but was small fry compared to the National champion of 500kg. That was eclipsed by the world champ of 1000kg. What is incredible about the squashes is that those exquisite fruits are created from just air and sunshine. Good soil and water play their part too, but it is the energy of the summer sun and the carbon in the air that work the magic.
Summer, of course,is the time of celebration and of family and friends. Food is the central glue to all the festivities and there is nothing better than local, fresh ingredients. This is the time to visit your local Farmers market. It is encouraging to see how markets have grown in the variety and quality of produce available. There are also some very competent bakers and chefs selling their wares.
Last week I bought some incredible mince pies from a neighbouring stall at the Karkloof market. Better than I have had for a long time.
I wish all our readers a very meaningful and festive holiday season and an abundance of good food and great wine.