February has arrived and with it quite a lot of sunshine, mild weather and the days a little longer. And the vegetable gardeners amongst you will be standing looking out of the window at the garden. Did you manage to get it dug over in the late Autumn to let the frost and the winter rains get at it? Or did you decide to wait and dig it over now? And is it in a fit state to be dug or are you wishing you had done it in the Autumn?
My Dad was a veg man - as were all the men in the village. No self-respecting housewife would expect to have to buy her vegetables in Summer - it was the husband's job to bring in the fresh veg every day. In fact I would go so far as suggest that a man in the village would be judged by the state of the veg he showed at the Annual Flower and Veg show in the village (usually a bit of soft fruit - strawberries, black currants and maybe early plums thrown in for good measure but never as important as the veg).
Perhaps the most important veg of all when it came to the Show was the Potato. Usually King Edwards - none of the fancy varieties they have now. Good old fashioned King Edwards - often chitted from a few good ones from last year;s crop.
And that first digging! One root, dug up about 6pm by my Dad (two roots if necessary but if so then there would be a serious discussion over what had gone wrong) The potatoes put in the metal bucket kept for the purpose. The bucket dipped into the water butt by the wash house door and then the water stirred vigorously with the copper stick by my Dad until the small, white, evenly sized jewels shone in the earthy water. Rinsed and put into a saucepan, salt added (no scare-mongering about salt in our diet in those days even though it was just as bad for us then) and a couple of sprigs of fresh mint from the herb garden. We would sit at the table - knives and forks ready - they would be strained through the colander and put into the same dish every year - white with flowers round the rim picked up at the junk shop - George Walker's in the village when my Mother took up his Sunday dinner one week (he lived alone). Then a large knob of tub butter weighed out and patted into an oblong at the Friday butter market in Lincoln would be plopped on the top to melt and we would dive in. Silence would reign supreme while we tucked in and there would never be a single potato left. And I would defy anyone to come up with a better, more sublime taste. Except perhaps a pot of fresh brown shrimps from the shrimp stall on the prom at Morecambe Bay.