Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Veg Talk

WARNING: The following is a foretaste and warning of many future posts that will focus on gardening (and possibly cooking) and that will contain no discernable humour content and nothing of any interest whatsoever to anybody except Kevin, and maybe not even him.

I've said before this is a meat and potatoes country and no more so than in regard to the diet. I got over my early digestive problems, but not with any help from the food. Now, my mother's pretty handy in the kitchen and she passed on to me the values of variety and of cooking things only just enough to make them not raw yet neither shoe leather nor pig slop. I crave vegatables, steamed, with a little salt, still with a hint of crispness, possible then glazed in the pan with a little butter and honey, perhaps with some mint, sesame seeds, pine kernels.... No. I would have to kill several people to make anything like this happen. But in the interests of positiveness here are the Top 6 Vegatables I might have an outside chance of getting my hands on. (NB: Some of the photographs you may have already seen before - our digital camera has broken, so bad luck.)

My Brocolli: They said I couldn't do it. They said it wouldn't survive the Transylvanian winter. They said these seeds I'd got from England were not adapted to local conditions. They said purple was not an acceptable colour for a vegetable (assuming any vegetable might be deemed "acceptable"). They said Mrs Dilo's mother's withering glances had already predetermined its destiny from the off. They were wrong (so far).

My Tomatos: I've already bored people to death about these. I'm growing heirloom varieties: Pink Brandywine, Cherokee Purple and Black Russian. Jamie Oliver raves about them. But it's the names mainly, isn't it.

Mrs Dilo's Mother's Carrots: This otherwise fine lady takes vegetable-hating to it's ultimate and grim conclusion and will barely allow them in the house. She does however sometimes make clear soups, and I once observed that part of this process involves a carrot which is then thrown away after the soup has finished boiling. "Errrr, could I perhaps have that carrot?" I asked timidly. Bless her, I now get a large soggy carrot with every bowl of clear soup she serves me.

Wild Mushrooms: (These are Boletus edulis, to be precise). You've got to take a granny with you, obviously, one who knows what's what. This granny knows what's what and then dries them and uses them in stews.

Rosehips: Not really a vegatable, but then neither, technically, is a tomato, and you let that one through. We gather these, and clover and nettles and mint and something called "mouse's tail", and make tea. Ahh, so that's where Romanians get the Vitimin C they otherwise shun. Mrs Dilo's father swears by them, but then he also swears by pickled cabbage water as a cure for every illness including swine fever.

Banana: Not a vegetable or a fruit but an insect. So there. Bananas have huge cultural significance in Romania. One can judge a person's age when you hear them say (and they will at some time, you can be sure): "You know, I was 13 before I ate my first banana!!" She's 33 years old. Yes we had no bananas under communism. First banana's always eaten in 1990 or '91, and, interestingly, monkey fashion, always started from the end without the tail - it's an anthropology thesis waiting to be written.

22 comments:

Lulu LaBonne said...

I'm incredibly jealous of your boletus and your Pink Brandywines Gadj. It is my dream to have a vegetable garden.

My husband won't let me touch our garden for fear of disturbing the ecosystem - apparently we have some fine colonies of solitary bees - but it takes a lot of bees to make a decent tart.

Camilla Jessop said...

After a good days riding, I often have rosehips.

Autolycus said...

Are there tales of people trying to eat the banana without taking the skin off? I seem to remember this was a famous trope of the newsreels celebrating the arrival of the first postwar bananas in the UK in 1946.

Gorilla Bananas said...

The skin is actually the best part of the banana to eat. Show me a gorilla who doesn't eat the skin and I'll show you wannabe human.

Scarlet Blue said...

I am never quite sure what to do with vegetables other than they can be squished and used as effective hair dyes.
Sx

Kevin Musgrove said...

The pink brandywines are wonderful and the black Russians are great cookers. We had a couple of unproductive summers (cold and wet at key points in the growth cycle), which put my dad off doing any sowing last year (he's the seedsman in the family). And I'll have your ceps if Lulu doesn't want them.

Rosehips make an absolutely glorious pale orange jelly (it'd do well with those Romanian sheep's cheeses) - no good as jam because the seeds are thick with little irritating hairs. Ditto rowan berries, one of the secret vices of the Pennine folks.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Lulu, can it still be called "a garden" if you're not allowed to cultivate it?? And oxymoronic "colonies of solitary bees" - do you live with Alice in the Land Through the Looking Glass?! :-)

Camilla, ah, I bet you do, my girl, I bet you do!

Autolycus, nice to hear from you again. Very possibly, through I haven't heard them yet. They had tales of spaghetti trees back then too, didn't they?

Bananas, I hate those gorillas who do that, especially the ones who then lay the skin on the ground so the keeper will slip up on it.

Scarley, can vegetables be squished and used as effective hair dyes? Don't tell Mrs Dilo: she's going a bit grey AND likes to save money, so she might just try it.

Kevin, ah, I knew I could rely on you (and your father... I'm also the seedsman here, partly because I enjoy and partly because there's not too many varieties on sale in pots here). Our black Russians have been the tastiest, but there are still more varieties I haven't tried yet. Yes, people do indeed make that rosehip jelly here. Sorry to hear about your unproductive summers; ours are quite reliably hot and this made me think I could really go to town on exotic bedding plants this year, if I got them started safely inside under glass, then out in the cold frame; so I got a properator for Christmas and am trying Salpiglossis and Lewisia amongst other things. Got Gentiana Acaulis in the fridge too. Your comment/advice is always welcome.

Gaw said...

Are you sure they're tomato varieties? They sound like cigarette brands from Imperial Russia.

Talking of which the vegetable cure-all over there is pickled garlic shoots: thin, green and pungent. Chewing one of those every day will ensure most things steer clear of you!

Kevin Musgrove said...

I'm going to try and wheedle him into doing some tomatoes this year, though I'm not sure where I'd be planting them that would suit. The varieties and flavours that you can get from seed that you won't ever see in the shops are fantastic (the picture in my FB wall photos is from five years ago).

Gentiana acaulis is grand, the Botanical Gardens at Edinburgh used to have an astonishing group of them on one of the rockeries.

Pearl said...

My backyard is, oh, about THIS BIG. No veggies for me!

If you tire of your granny, though, I'll take her. The state parks near Duluth, according to the Russian immigrants around here, are chock full of edible mushrooms.

Pearl

Gadjo Dilo said...

Gaw, I see what you mean - I should maybe also try Beefsteak Sobranie. Russians never fail to impress me with their commando approach to life.

Kevin, yep that's the glory of growing from seed, that and feeling like a dad. Gentiana acaulis is tricky, but if the Botanical Gardens at Auld Reekie succeeded then maybe I can too!

Pearly, my granny was turned down for a USA visa about 5 times, so please write a letter to Mr Obama and then I'll send her over!

Lulu LaBonne said...

Yes I do live throught the looking glass, solitary bees live in colonies but each has his own hole and they won't talk to each other - a bit like people really!

The Jules said...

Romania has some weird words.

What are these 'vejytubbles' you speak of.

M C Ward said...

I too admire your green fingered dabblings. Brazil's big problem is that everybody's grandfather used to farm, but then they thought they'd "modernise" (i.e. concrete over) everything and now nobody can grow anything in the cities except tired of life.

Alice Scradcza said...

In Lithuania, a bad radial weld on large gauge tube is known as a 'banana weld'. If you don't get full penetration, then the metal can 'peel'like banana skin.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Lulu, ah, shame, I used to like bees but now you're making them sound like the most appalling nimbies. Give my regards to Alice!

The Jules, I can't help thinking that "vejytubbles" is the way a Yorkshireman, e.g. Geoff Boycott, would say it, which rather pleases me.

Wardy, it's the same here: every Romanian has skint, badly dressed relatives who still farm, and has vowed to eat concrete if necessary rather than ever go back to that way of life.

Alice, duckie, I'm surprised that Lithuanians use the word "banana" to describe anything - don't they have some aboriginal fruit or vegatable that would serve the same linguistic purpose?

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

I've never understood that thing about bananas and Communism ... I mean what was the point of Cuba, otherwise?

inkspot said...

This is real science nerd stuff Gadj, cooking is applied chemistry and gardening applied biology. I would point out though, wouldn't I, that boiling rosehips, or anything else, will destroy the vitamin C in them.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Daph, good point, I hadn't thought of that. But maybe they couildn't get the Cubans to accept the Romanian cabbages in ruturn.

Inkspot, does it?? Grrr, curses, why does science always have to ruin everything!! Nice to hear from you again though.

Gyppo Byard said...

Sounds fabulous. We grow cherry tomatoes (because they're kiddy sized, primarily), chilis, herbs and various salady bits. Not as spectacular as your efforts but better than nothing.

On a nitpicky note - fungi aren't vegetables, and bananas *should* be eaten from the top monkey-fashion (the stalk is the bottom end). This is an issue on which I feel more strongly than on many seriosu political whatsits...

Madame DeFarge said...

Do they come frozen in packets too? That's how I recognise veg these days.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Gyppo, hurrah, you're back! Chilis, eh? Sounds well spectacular. Yeah, I was wondering who'd spot that mushrooms aren't even plants let alone vegetables.

Madame, I can put them frozen in packets for you, and deivery a box of them round to your house once a week for a charge of £49.99. Sounds reasonable?