Sunday, 7 April 2013

Time to start gardening

Here it is, already April, and I haven't started gardening yet! Actually, I take that back - I did start a few pumpkins on the windowsill. But I haven't been down to my allotment in at least a month. The weather has just been too cold and dreary to even bother.

But now that it is April, it must surely start warming up soon. So, I am beginning to think about what I want to grow this year. I'm currently in Paris for a few weeks, so I can't actually get down to the allotment until the middle of April, but my gardening mojo finally started to come back after I found a fabulous vegetable print at a street flea market near Place d'Italie on Easter Monday.

Print by H. Demoulin. Sc

It is a colour plate from the Nouveau Larousse illustré, an illustrated encyclopedia published between 1897 and 1904. It is an interesting guide to the wide variety of vegetables available in France at the time. I noticed that the now ubiquitous courgette (zucchini in the US) is not present, though there are a number of other gourds in the cucurbita family, including the large French pumpkin in the middle, one that I always try to grow because it is the most delicious.

Inspired by my encyclopedia of vegetables, I went down to the Quai de la Mégisserie to visit the plant shops. Paris has not expelled these kinds of house and homeware shops to the suburbs, so you can still find everything you need right in the center of town.*

Streetside garden shop

I like to buy at least some of my seeds from France and the US, because I can find things that aren't readily available in the UK. This time I bought a pumpkin with white skin called Potiron blue de Hongrie. I also picked up some long beetroots, called betterave crapaudine - which coincidentally look exactly like the beetroot pictured in the encyclopedia (no. 19). Apparently it is an old variety of beet that is coming back in style.

Just goes to show, if you want to be à la mode - in both fashion and vegetables - you come to Paris.

(And if you want to see the other things I plan to grow on my allotment, visit my allotment gardening board on pinterest.)

*The pet shops are also located in this area - we always stop in and say hi to the cute (and overpriced) puppies and kittens. This is another thing you wouldn't find in the UK, where shops seem to have stopped selling cats and dogs altogether.