Sunday, January 01, 2017

the vegetable soul


You now, with cherry
       tomatoes lettuce cucumber.
Every forkful entirely you,
every scrape of the plate.
    Who are you? Yes,
        that’s still a mystery.
There’ll never be another
                such as you.
You are a unique
     creation of your own soul.
One flower continually fading,

Projection of a rippling bud,
     a rose in the parchment,
     tinfoil roller behind electric bulbs,
One warm opponent.

How does it all flow back into the vanity case,
those silks?

Your feral look, your home village?
What heavy metal
     in your bones is never renewed?


Desperate for some good nutrition after the roasts, pies and creams of Christmas, I raided my own fridge and fell with unusual fury on the delicious parsley. Maybe I was short of Vitamin K, or again it might have been folic acid. I wouldn't own a great big bag of parsley like this at any other time of year; it was bought purely for sprinkling on Christmas preparations (sprouts with almonds, root vegetable mash...). The reason I wouldn't have it normally is because it isn't organic and I don´t like buying veg that isn´t organic.  In the glory days of the organic putsch, round about the late 1990s, progressive supermarkets like Sainsbury's stocked fresh organic herbs. But in Sainsbury's case complacency has long since set in; their organic range shrank back to essentials and has hardly changed at all in the last five years.

All of the vegetables in this picture come from the Iberian peninsula.

The parsley was grown by Jaime Visquert, whose farm is one of the gigantic groups of greenhouses surrounding El Ejido in Almeria. (Google Earth detail below.) The bulk of Europe's winter salad comes from places like this, where you can farm the year-round sunshine.

El Ejido, Almeria, surrounded by greenhouses (Google Earth)

The cherry tomatoes were grown by Rogiero Alves near Alcochete in Portugal (just the other side of the River Tajo from Lisbon).  Sainsbury's preference seems to be to quote individual farmers' names on their veg packaging. "Rogiero Alves" sounds much nicer than "Horticilha-agro Indústria Sa". It brings it all down to a human level, it evokes a picturesque family smallholding hung with clustered vines. But that is not how you feed a continent.

Here's an interview about Horticilha's high-tech greenhouse, at one time the largest greenhouse for organic produce in Europe:

Horticilha green-houses, beside the N5 near Alcochete (Google Earth)


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