April 18th 2013 – Green shoots

Last Sunday we had my wife’s four brothers and one of their wives around for lunch.  I won’t bore you with ‘why’ or ‘what we ate’, suffice to say a lovely leg of Kentish Lamb was involved.

Before they came I made sure that I tidied up my raised beds; at least one of the guests was a vegetable gardener and I couldn’t lose face.  ‘Look now, look all around, there’s no sign of life’ I heard in my head.  Incidentally as I drive from Canterbury to Ramsgate where I pick up from Gadd’s Brewery, I always pass a road sign pointing to Thanet and Earth. ‘this is Thanet Earth’ then invades my consciousness.  The kids think I’m a right Duran Duran nut, only I have seen Barbarella.

I digress, the point is that the next day (Monday) I saw this:


OK, you had to be there but from bare soil the day before there were the first Broad Bean and Potato leaves.  They had survived and were just lusting for some warmth.

I wait for Kentish Asparagus.  I’m not convinced by the white stuff, perhaps its too delicate for my palate.  My wait is nearly over.

However Asparagus is not the only Spring shoot to be savoured.  I will just quote from Dorothy Hartley’s ‘Food in England’:


The bracken increase that destroys so much of our land comes from so many causes.  Bracken used to be cut for bedding for farm animals, for covering-in root crops, and for weaving into shelters and hurdles, and trusses of it were burnt in the ovens and used to light the open hearths.  Quantities were used by the slate and earthenware workers to pack their wares for road transport.  The invention of the pneumatic tyre on the lorry caused much bracken to remain uncut, as less packing was needed.  The sheep were on the hills so early that they ate young shoots for lack of other grazing – and where the bracken was not brought down for use about the steading, the shepherd would cut it all over his sheep walk because, growing high; it hid the sheep, induced fly, ans spoilt the fine grass ‘bite’.  All these reasons combined to keep the growth of the bracken within bounds.  Now it is not cut and has become a desperate weed instead of a useful growth.’

She wrote this in 1954

She goes on:

‘Young bracken fronds are edible when about three inches high and still tightly curled; they should be so young that they snap off.

Tie in loose bundles and cook like asparagus – only longer, and serve with melted bacon fat.  They have a distinctive smoky flavour – rather like the smell of Darjeeling rea.  Brown bread and butter is the best accompaniment.  You either like them very much or not at all.’

Me?  I like.  But then again I think ‘New Miseable Experience’ by the Gin Blossoms is great music to cook by.  And you do too, Gary.

© Bob Cavanagh, 2013, http://www.deliciouslydifferent.be

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