I’d heard it a million times. Gardeners, exaggerating how marvellous their fruit and veg were. Fisherman’s tales of everything being greener, bigger, rounder, smoother, and above all, so much BETTER than everything we poor mortals were buying. Yawn. Until my awakening. Until that Damascene moment. Until I ate the first tomato from my own plant.
Oh how boring I shall become! Because, you know, it really is true! They simply ARE redder, and more beautiful, and warm from the sun, and more delicious than any tomato has ever been. Ever. Sliced or in wedges, with a sprinkle of salt or my neighbour’s strong olive oil. Nothing better.
And my peppers!!! Oh my goodness, how extraordinary they are. Nearly all bent in the middle, where as a tiny baby they grew against a leaf, whose greater strength forced the soft baby pimiento to twist away from it. Mis-shapen, unloved by supermarkets, and delicious in our weekend paella.
I have no land, I have no garden. But the middle terrace serves as a sunny spot for some trees in pots, a few plants, and there’s space for the herbs I plan to start. The nispero tree gave me a dozen fruit earlier this year, and judging by the flower buds I will get more next year. The lemon tree, planted for my mother as soon as I arrived, is healthy and has three big lemons growing well. The flowering black cherry tree has done nothing – no fruit, no flowers – but I live in hope every year, that the following season something may appear.
A friend donated the tomato plant, which has so far supplied two or three tomatoes every few days. The two green pepper plants are my greatest success and supply more than I can eat. No point offering them to the neighbours – they have a hundred times as many as I do!
I wrote two years ago about the almond harvest. Last year’s was a poor crop, due to the early snow and heavy frosts. This year is better again, and the sacks of sorted almonds go off to become bagged dried fruit (the best quality nuts) or turrón (the second best quality). Anything classed as third quality (still good!) is kept for the family to use. The older generation joins in with the sorting and the cracking, and it is a privilege to join them and listen to them explaining their traditions and early lives to me, along with arguments about the monarchy and about Catalunyan independence.
The almonds are hugely important here – the second most important crop for my neighbours, after the olives. The bad harvest last year hit them hard. It is so easy to forget how the people who grow and tend our food are at the mercy of the weather. Imagine other categories of workers being told they would only get half their salary due to early snow! Meanwhile this week it was announced that police helicopters would protect the mango plantations in the Axarquía region, due to the risk of theft of this valuable crop. I doubt the farmers are insured against theft.
Back on my terrace I am fortunately not dependent on my tomatoes or my nisperos for an income. Now the hot summer is behind us, watering is less critical. I climb the iron staircase each morning after my patio breakfast, and admire those plants that have survived my clumsy tending. The saddest is a pumpkin, which grew rapidly to about six inches in its first fortnight, and since then I swear has been shrinking. Rafa laughed his head off when I showed it to him, asking what was the matter with it. Apparently it needs a couple of square metres of deep earth, not the 6″ flowerpot I had left it in! Ah well, I don’t like pumpkin much anyway, and only accepted it because I had mixed up calabaza (pumpkin) and calabacin (courgette, which I love).
© Tamara Essex 2014 http://www.twocampos.com
THIS WEEK’S LANGUAGE POINT:
Now it’s all about practicing for the exam next month. It’s annoying – I can argue confidently about the Scottish referendum or about Catalunyan independence. But it turns out I can’t describe a photograph as required in the B1 exam. They require that I describe people’s hair and style of dress (which has never come up in day-to-day conversation), and I need to be able to identify what can be seen in the top right of a photo. Pointing is apparently not acceptable.
So JuanMi has drilled me in the parts of a photo –
En el primer plano – in the foreground
En segundo plano – I suppose the second layer back!
En la parte superior – in the upper part
En la parte inferior – in the lower part
En la esquina superior derecha – in the upper right hand corner
En el centro – in the middle
En el fondo – in the background
This is all followed by lots of “se puede ver” – one can see; “podemos observar” – we can observe; “me parece que” – it seems to me that; and “A primera vista a mi me parece que la foto representa …” – At first sight it seems to me that the photo shows …”
I wonder if, after the exam, I will ever use these phrases again? “La plume de ma tante” springs to mind. Tell me, has anyone ever mentioned their aunt’s pen in France? Or described someone with curly hair in the top right corner of a photograph in Spain?