This month has a slick new nickname: Veganuary. After a New Year of indulgence, it is a nickname with traction. It will pull me into a brief vegetarian interlude. I will not give up eggs and I am certainly not giving up chocolate. Like many of you, I am scaling back on post-Christmas meat, at least until the inflated price of pheasants drops below £10 a brace: can the garden help?
In 2022 vegetable gardens were roasted to death. July was very hot and watering was forbidden in August: spinach and peas were ruined and celeriac never put on weight. I was left with ceaseless cucumbers and ever-cropping courgettes. The cucumbers were too big and mushy and I ran out of ideas for using courgettes.
Ideas for them are less of a problem now that I have been given Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe book, Plenty More. It sets a challenging standard. How ever will I find, let alone grow, the exotica he prescribes? What is za’atar when it is at home? Is freekeh something we can raise from seed?
He shows a colour picture of courgette Baba Ganoush which strikes me as an epitaph for last year’s harvest. The courgettes have been roasted until they wrinkle and have been mixed with what looks like mid-December’s snowfall. The snowy coating is goat’s yoghurt. The result, Ottolenghi says, “looks rather like a volcanic eruption, in the best possible sense”: is there one?
Under the volcano, I will vary this year’s courgettes by choosing new varieties. Part of the fun of growing vegetables is sowing their seeds, usually with rapid results: here are four good sources, each with a fascinating list, courgettes and cucumbers to the fore.
Thompson and Morgan (thompson-morgan.com) have an ever-improving website whose varieties are ever-improving too. It