As a child, the furthest things from my mind at Christmas were vegetables. Chocolate and presents were pretty high up there, but vegetables? It was always my and my sister's job to peel the endless potatoes for the roast, but my joy alone to pod the peas. "Whistle while you pod," my mum would say, thus ensuring I wouldn't be able to eat them straight away. I loved the way the peas pinged against the sides of the metal bowl. It was the one small concession I made to vegetables at Christmas.
This year, I gave up eating chocolate to support my father, who was quitting smoking; my wish-list of presents is actually identical to a list of things I am saving up for, and the main thing I am keeping my eye on is vegetables. Who have I become?
It's my third year hosting Christmas lunch, and I'm pretty excited because a lot of it will be homegrown. I get a kick out of gardening when things are growing and healthy and managing to dodge the bullets of pests, diseases and terrible weather. The next biggest kick is picking it and putting it on the table, and the real hallelujah moment is when that food is eaten and enjoyed and I get lavished with praise.
This year's menu is
* Lamb, butterflied and cooked to perfection, served with mint sauce
* Roast potatoes
* An Epic Salad
* Some sort of other vegetable dish of awesomeness
To pull this off, I will need to ransack the garden of these:
Spuds - I've only planted Agrias this year. Though I do like the traditional Christmas Jersey Benne spud, Agrias really are my favourite for their roasting properties. Christmas is all about roast potatoes for me. Actually, most weekends when I cook are about roast potatoes. There is nothing finer than a crunchy, golden roast potato, and Agrias do this the best. Last year's spuds were awesome. Here's hoping this year's ones will be too.
Peas - These are actually sugar snaps, so no podding while whistling required. They're going great guns.
Silverbeet - my old adversary silverbeet, cooked into submission by every female relative I've ever been served it by, is prolific and makes a nice crisp addition to salads. I just don't tell the Trusty Assistant it's in there, and he's happy.
Courgettes - these had better get a wriggle on, or we might not be eating them till the New Year. With six plants, I am looking forward to complaining about a courgette glut this year.
Lettuce - I've got so many varieties of lettuce, especially buttercrunch, that we can't eat it fast enough. I don't know what has happened to all the slugs in our garden, but every leaf is nibble free. Touch wood.
Carrots - Early Chantnay and Egmont Gold carrots that I sowed in September using the seed tape technique will still be fairly skinny, but entirely tasty.
Spring onions - I got this bundle of seedlings from Awapuni nurseries and never looked back. I've barely paid them any attention, and yet they are fattening up and standing to attention as if they're on their best behaviour.
Tomatoes - fingers are crossed that we will have some of the mystery heirloom yellow cherries on by then, though I think I may be asking a little too much, even though I feel I might have broken The Curse of Growing Tomatoes in this Climate. All eight plants are flowering heartily, and I'm told I'll get zillions of fruit, but in time for Chrimbo? P'raps not.
Garlic - disasters in the shape of chicken feet have rendered my garlic's health pretty poor this year. Last year I harvested my garlic in mid-January. This year, I may treat myself to a few bulbs to roast early, though I'm not optimistic they'll be anything other than tiny.
Radishes - It's looking good for these cherry babies. I sprinkled seeds on some soil and voila, crunchy radishes.
Onions - red onions are in the potting shed drying, just waiting to be sliced into a salad.
Herbs - oregano, chives, parsley (both flat leaf, which grows wild around here, and curled, which doesn't), dill, marjoram, mint and thyme will end up in something, no doubt. I will have tonnes of mint to make this mint sauce for the lamb. I will not be able to make a dressing aux fines herbes, as my chervil has gone to seed and karked it.
One thing we won't be eating much at Christmas is homegrown strawberries - we eat them as fast as the plants can grow them.
Where are you having Christmas? What are you serving this year? Any homegrown goodies making it on to your plate?