Gooseberries


Look carefully at the bush at the back. Do you see any gooseberries? No, me neither.

The other day I raved about the gooseberry bush I inherited on my plot. Things were progressing nicely, and last week saw me lovingly stroking my near-perfect berries in anticipation of an imminent gourmet treat.
Today I strolled over to the plot to harvest them, ready for my first ever homegrown gooseberry feast. And then I saw it. Or rather, I didn’t. For you see, every single gooseberry on the bush has gone. Disappeared! It’s as if they weren’t ever there!

It appears that there is a thief at the allotment! And this thief has stolen my gooseberries! I saw a comment on My Tiny Plot that mentioned one of the benefits of growing in your garden was that no-one would steal your veggies, but I dismissed this as being overly paranoid. How wrong I was. More fool me for trusting my fellow allotmenteers.

Who would do such a thing? And how could I find them? Fortunately today was also the first allotment barbeque of the summer, which gave me a chance to undertake some detective work.

Normally I’d be warmed by the social interaction and the pleasant chit chat with my fellow growers. But knowing that there was a thief in the crowd darkened my mood. I wasn’t sure how to raise the subject, but I knew I had to. Sure it’s sensitive, but you can’t let people get away with this sort of thing.

Deirdre came over with a large brownish lump on a plate.

“Slice of cake?” she smiled.

“What sort is it?” I muttered distractedly, peering past her to see if I could spot someone evil-looking.

“Gooseberry. I picked them myself!”

That got my attention.

I stared at the woman. Was she brazen enough to steal my gooseberries, bake them and then offer them back to me? Could Deirdre be the Gooseberry Thief?

I fixed her with a piercing glare, hoping to force a confession by sheer strength of will. Nothing. Clearly a hard nut to crack.

“Did you grow these on your plot then, Deirdre?” Let’s see how good the alibi is.

“Oh yes! Gooseberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, raspberries. I do so love my soft fruits.” And then she coolly inserted the dagger through my heart: “You should try growing some yourself!”

Who was this Moriarty that stood before me? A hardened criminal who took pleasure in taunting her victims with their lovingly-grown fruit.

“I was growing some, Deirdre. I was going to pick them this weekend, but you know what? When I went over to my plot just now they were all gone. Every last one. Can you believe it?”

I’ll bet you can Deirdre, eh?

“Oh no, that’s terrible.” She can certainly feign sympathy, I’ll give her that. Probably had lots of practice, mind you. “Was it pigeons? I bet it was.”

“Eh?”

“Pigeons. We get loads of them here. Horrible things. They eat anything that’s not covered in a net. I can’t tell you how much fruit I’ve lost to them.”

Pigeons. Nice try. Almost had me there, Deirdre.

Will wandered over to join us.

“Oh Will, I was just telling this young man about the pigeons.”

Her accomplice rolled his eyes. “Don’t get me started on the @$&*! Pigeons. I’ve spent half my pension on nets to keep those vermin off my crops. Bastards.”

They’re all at it! Thick as, well, thieves! I thought I’d joined a friendly local community of like-minded vegetable growers. It appears instead that I have stumbled into a viper’s nest of criminals.

I’m going to have to watch my back.

On the ipod while mourning my gooseberries: Public Enemy / 911 is a joke. Apparently you can’t report missing vegetables. Go figure.

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Coming on nicely

When I inherited the allotment a few months ago there were signs of various plants having been grown in past seasons. Most of them looked fairly unpromising, or happened to be growing in the wrong place for my carefully-designed masterpiece, and I dug ’em up.

In a part of the plot that I hadn’t planned to do a great deal with there was a spiky-looking bush. It didn’t have any leaves on then, but although it was a bit scraggy it did show signs of having been pruned and tended.

Largely through a combination of chance and lethargy I left it alone and vaguely noticed as leaves and then tiddly little flowers popped out. Then the other day – perhaps in a plaintive cry for attention – it snagged my leg as I walked past and I finally managed to identify it.

And so I found out that I am the proud owner of a gooseberry bush! It’s about 1m tall and wide, and seems to be happily producing a decent crop of the green and hairy berries without any help or input from me. I can’t help but feel there’s a lesson there (see previous post on pumpkins).

Nevertheless, what a bonus: in a few weeks I should be able to harvest a bumper crop, which gives me plenty of time to find a recipe for them. Gooseberry jam feels a bit boring, and everyone suggests Gooseberry Fool (even though no-one seems entirely sure what it is),  so the contrarion in me rules that one out.

I have some elderflowers growing in the back garden, and they are meant to go well with gooseberries, so perhaps there’s any option there. Any thoughts?!?

On the ipod while admiring my berries: Franz Ferdinand / Ulysses.

I wonder how I’d feel if no song I ever wrote was as good as the first hit I had.