Another night of frost, and Molly and I went to look at the scarole. I'm not quite sure what scarole is. I mean, I know it's a salad, that sort of acts as a lettuce, except it grows in winter, and the slugs don't eat it, and it really is much nicer than any lettuce. It might be a kind of chicory, or it might be kind of endive, but with the turn-and-turn-about of false friendships between English and French on this I'm not really sure which is which of those two things. It is very crispy, and a little sweet and a little bitter.
I read somewhere once that children's aversion to green vegetables stems from an evolutionary response that rejects any hint of a bitter back-taste as a defence against possible toxins. I am wary of this as it seems to me to give the fussy little buggers an excuse. I can clearly remember schooling myself out of this resistance from quite a young age, tempering the bitter with sweet and salt until it became more acceptable. I have to say in my experience British children are incorrigibly stubborn about this, most that I know won't even touch green peas, which don't seem to me to carry any bitter back-taste whatever; French youngsters seem to be able to take green veg on board far more readily, especially the ubiquitous and rather boring green beans. Our Dutch friend E, who partly introduced us to scarole, quoted a pretty sounding proverb in Dutch the other day which goes something like 'Bitter in the mouth is good for the heart', which may be a bit of folk wisdom that proves sound in scientific terms of antioxidants and such like. Tom is often quite fussy about anything bitter, but happily eats scarole as a salad entrée every day with nothing more than a light raspberry vinegar dressing and a good dollop of Heinz salad cream.
When we got to the veg garden, things did not look good:
Apart from the fact that the germination rate of the seed back in August/September was decidedly haphazard (we have eaten quite a few already, mind), and there are rather a lot of weeds in my raised bed, the scarole was even crispier than it should be; in fact it was stiff and frosted. (Those are my feet/legs/scarf, of course).
It's said to be frost hardy, but Jean-Paul and his missus, who gave us some very luscious ones a few weeks ago, warned that it was only so much so, and should really be covered with fleece to be on the safe side, which needless to say I didn't do.
It looked rather as though a harvest of photographs was all that remained, for the frost did pick out the shapes and lines rather nicely, and merited, I thought, conversion to black and white, as the greens are rather livid.
I pulled one up a little later in the day, however, when the frost had lightened but not completely gone, and it recovered remarkably well, only some of the outer leaves going somewhat cellophane-like and frost damaged. With the blustery wet thaw we've in the last couple of days, they have completely recovered and we enjoyed a whole one, inner and outer leaves, before dinner tonight.
And as for the tatsoi, they aren't big, but they don't seem to mind any kind of inclemency, and the frosts have killed off the flea beetle and green caterpillars that were nom-nomming them to bits.
So steamed, stir-fry or salad, we eat up our greens.