Life on Pig Row: The pleasure of growing your own food

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The Oldham family

High on the Saddleworth hills, the Oldham family have created an inspiring kitchen garden which provides a wealth of rich flavours for the kitchen and larder. This column, written by Andrew and Carol, follows their journey throughout the year

For more information, visit their website

LISTEN CAREFULLY and you can hear the beans growing. You can hear the peas popping. The dahlias are rampant and you can literally hear the bees going into overdrive.

August is one of our favourite months – it is the time of harvest gluts, pans bubbling away on the oven top and jars sterilised ready to take preserves; the jams, the chutneys and the picklings.

There is no such thing as glut in our house. Glut is a filthy word. Four letter word. Glut.

However, having a bumper crop of courgettes, beans, raspberries, apples and blueberries does provide a real opportunity to lay down stores for winter.

You may think this is mad, you may be sat there reading this and saying, ‘My goodness, stores! Do they not have a supermarket nearby?’

You have missed the point, you won’t be told so toddle off and read the sports instead.

For those of you who have ever jammed their strawberries, pickled their beans, or simply frozen their own tomatoes you know what we are saying.

You know that to open a jam jar in the depths of winter and to happily spoon an inch thick layer of your own homegrown fruit on toast is like living a second summer.

Andrew’s Grandad had no garden but still each August he went to the local, falling-down market and bought the blackcurrants at the end of the day.

This thick, unctuous jam would outlive him, sit on our shelves long after he was gone and it was a jam that didn’t just remind us of a summer gone, it was a jam that reminded us of a lean-to kitchen, dripping with steam, the blackness of the jam pan bubbling, the red, mischievous face of a man who left this world at his kitchen table in the depths of winter, tasting summer once more.

Preserving the summer is more than a jam jar, more than some produce, it is a living memory caught in mid-air and kept for us to live again.

Each spoon, each fork we put into those preserve jars allow us to be there and breathe it in. Here’s to those blackcurrants, to the kitchen full of steam, our faces red, and to the jar of jam that will remind those we love that we love them.


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