chronological physiognomy

It sounds like the latest alternative health practice to emerge from new age South Devon, but is actually a preemptive strike against greens fatigue. Just a few weeks ago, the most common comment/complaint we were getting was carbohydrate overload; a kitchen full of roots as we approached the end of the season. When the sun is out and thoughts move to lighter meals this is not ideal. Culinary memories are short; before the end of the month, as sure as May follows April, the groans will be about never-ending greens.

Let me blame this annual progression of discontent on nature and the chronological physiognomy of a plant. When the first, vulnerable shoots break through to the surface each spring, the first priority is to get leaves out, trap sunlight and make sugar which can subsequently fuel reproduction (flowers, buds and pods) or stashing starch for next year (roots). Hence the first of the new season produce in the boxes tends to be devoted to photosynthesis, i.e. leaves. Lettuce, salad leaves, spinach, pak choi and loose green cabbage will all be prominent over the next few weeks. The exceptions to this rule are either the perennial crops that emerge quickly with the benefit of strong, starch laden roots (rhubarb and asparagus) or crops planted last autumn and over wintered in an immature form (garlic, salad onions and the first broad beans).

This excess of chlorophyll is relatively fleeting; by the end of next month there will be an abundance of pods, buds, fruits and flowers from our fields. But we dare not risk driving the less patient of you away with a deluge of greenery, so there will some strategic importing to keep the boxes reasonably balanced.

The first strawberries are only two weeks away. They mark the start of the summer profusion and, though seldom profitable, break up the green and quicken the pulse occasionally until the true bounty arrives in July. All ours are grown outside in the soil so they are not the earliest but they will be worth waiting for. Last year was an unmitigated disaster; we gave up picking in the end because the fruit was never dry and went off before it got to your doorstep. This year, like most of the crops, they are looking wonderful.