Every year. like clockwork, my mum says to me that the nights seem to be drawing in early this year. And every year it reminds me how delicious that short space between day and night can be. I especially like to go to the plot when everyone has gone home and squeeze in half an hour of pottering and picking just before sunset. Like tonight, when we arrived just before eight as the moon was rising. There was enough light to find easily the overgrown courgettes, the patty pans hiding between the leaves like crashed flying saucers, the prickly cucumbers, nasturtium leaves and flowers, and little gem lettuces going to seed too early. Runner beans are always more of a challenge with the long beans hiding among the leaves.
As the light gets lower, a bit more care is needed to avoid the residual thorniness of the sprawling raspberries. The gentlest cupping of the fruiting tips in the hand helps to separate the ripe fruits from those that need to be left behind. Even after eating the roundest, softest fruits, there were still enough to half fill a cup to bring home.
Everything else is fat and green, notwithstanding some pathetic beetroot shaded by asparagus fern. I'm feeling smug that those little plants that looked so isolated early in July have now filled the gaps so lushly. And I'm pleased that we let some beds do their own thing - borage, nasturtiums, calendula, and red amaranth* - all running on the rampage. Such luxuriant laziness.
At heart I'm a pretty slack gardener, I know that. This year, the early coolness and the soaking hasn't been so bad after all, it seems. Watering cans are standing redundant and for once my aching bones aren't down to lugging heavy watering cans - oh, so delicate are our sensibilities that we could not possibly contemplate the lightness of plastic, my dears.
All's well that ends well...yet again. And there's half a cup of raspberries to eat yet.
* Has anyone ever eaten amaranth? I know it's edible and the red leaves and tassels are so striking too. But what does it actually taste like?