Sunday, 25 November 2018

Parsnips, Christmas, Voles, Mice and Guinea Pigs.

We grow a strip bed of Parsnips for Christmas; just a strip bed, they take up so much room and have a long season of growth, sitting around until the Christmas weeks. This week Morgan and I lifted the Parsnips and put them in trays of sand, ready for the festivities; they’d been there too long. The problem is that to leave any root crop in the ground, in the colder months; especially in the field is asking for trouble, it’s a banquet for voles. If you do leave them in the ground then it pays to give them a little regular attention, let the Voles know you’re about, remove old leaves, keep them weeded and generally fuss around them. Complacency will result in the shoulders of the roots hollowed out by the perfect chiselling of Voles, confident that they won’t be disturbed. We now have four large trays, heavy with Parsnips and coarse sand, in the polytunnel which is now consistently cold enough to keep them in suspended animation until roasting. However danger is not far away, as the tunnel and glasshouse are Woodmouse territory; a beautiful white bellied Mouse with large dark eyes and quite big ears, that likes Parsnips too; so fussing about is still part of our duties. To help the situation, our trays of Parsnips are placed on some staging that is isolated from other benching so that if they are to be successfully raided, it would take an SAS style mission by these mice.
Photo, Morgan James.
The variety of Parsnip we grew this year is ‘Gladiator’, the world’s first hybrid  Parsnip, a variety familiar to me as it was one commonly found in the Gatenby vegetable garden of the 80’s, chosen due to it’s resistance to the disease canker. This morning was frosty; but the rising sun turned the paths of the vegetable bed into oozy mud making the harvest a little sticky; however we didn’t wash the roots. When preparing to store, washing the roots of any root vegetable seriously shortens it’s shelf life, rub the thick off for practicality’s sake; but don’t wash. Put them in paper sacks, trays of sand or compost and keep them frost fee; but cool. From about 1977 until 1985 I used to visit the fruit and vegetable wholesaler in Middlesbrough, very early on Saturday mornings in winter, to collect a large paper sack of carrots. The unwashed carrots keeping, unbelievably, so much longer than the washed ones. Why would a teenager need so many carrots? To feed my Guinea Pigs, another root loving rodent.

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