Last weekend was fiesta time again here in the mountains. “Not more fiestas!” do I hear you chorus? These are not the pumped up summer fiestas where the villages put on a show for the wider family who return in their oversized four by four cars. Instead, they are the more genuine celebrations that coincide with a Christian saint’s day deemed important to the village but probably have a much older and more fundamental function, for they are the fiestas that coincide with the end of the harvest. The white walls of village houses are bedecked with startlingly red peppers drying in the Autumn sunshine, the pumpkins are swelling in their patches and the almonds can be heard rattling around in the de-husking machines that lurk all year in the back of some garage or farm shed. And there is no better an event for these rural villages to celebrate than the end of the harvest; the Summer has given way to mellow Autumn and the food, grown so painstakingly over the year under the blistering Andalucian sun, is now safely gathered in. A good time to pause and drain the barrel, making room for this year’s wine brew.
Has it been a good growing year? Here, at Cortijo Opazo, the two tall ones have been chasing their tails as ever - a habit they no doubt picked up from Ella. Gluts are a common occurrence in the households of many allotment holders and gardeners alike. This year, if has been the courgette that has taken centre stage. We’ve grown both the long dark green sort and the light and sweeter tasting round variety. The production of both has surpassed the consumption needs of this house including all its guests. There has been a constant look of dismay on the faces of my carers when one of them enters the house with a basket full of yet more courgettes. They’ve made soups, soufflés and jams, quiches, ratatouille and pestos a plenty. They have even had a great success with a courgette and marmalade cake that they make for garden open days which has been going down like, well, hot cakes - only it’s not hot. So tell me why is it that, once the courgette plant leaves start to dry and you can see the plant is reaching the end of its life span do my two companions show signs of regret? “Is this the last courgette” one asked, mournfully this morning. Surely there is not a sadness that the ample supply of courgettes is finally drying up that brings this melancholy? Is there a reluctance in the recognition that another Summer is now over, that the fruits of Summer are finished. The freezer is still full of bags of this year’s broad beans, blanched and frozen, yet I am sure I heard one of them say with glee that it will soon be the end of October and time to plant next year’s broad beans. Enough! When does the creation of a vegetable glut become pure gluttony?
Better to spend your efforts elsewhere in the garden, creating a space of beauty, or better still, take some time out once in awhile. We all had a day out recently and travelled to the province of Almeria where we visited another garden created by two semi obsessive gardeners. Squeezed in amongst the plastic green houses of Almeria this couple have created a green oasis in the form of a tropical jungle. To step inside is to lose oneself amongst the maze of narrow paths overshadowed by arching trees. In every corner there is a delight to behold, and although the plot is relatively small, visitors could easily pass a considerable amount of time enjoying this lush and densely planted paradise. It is called “Jardín Botanic la Almunya del Sur” and again is the work of just two people.
Ella and I certainly work hard in the garden and do our best to contribute towards the creation of a glut. Strange thing is, though, that no matter how hard we dig and how deep we bury our treasures, we are never rewarded with a single fruit from the bone tree.
Yours, looking in the cupboard for a glut of dog tins,