Mara’s Land Diary: Day 2

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Mara is one of Cultivate’s inaugural interns, spending time with us during her summer break. This is part 2 of her diary:

Quarter to nine on Wednesday morning and it was time to jump back into the Cultivate CrewVan, which I’ve just discovered started life as a police van. This makes it the perfect vehicle for the quick get-aways needed to get Cultivate staff and volunteers from A to B!

As soon as we arrived at the land I got stuck in planting beans along the drip-irrigation piping craftily engineered by Joe and Dan. Joe showed me and his girlfriend Nina how to use the drip-feed system – which cleverly irrigates and softens the soil just in the spot that you have to place a plug – to help with spacing and planting the seedlings. This system saves a lot of time and hassle (e.g. fiddling about with rulers and tape measures) and also saves a lot of water. I spent a very pleasant morning with Nina discussing life, books, films and boys as we advanced up and down the field planting out our plugs.

We were completely engrossed in what we were doing, so I cannot say for sure what the others were up to, but I think Michael was expertly fitting the last of the polytunnel doors whilst chilling to Beethoven, Emma was most probably singing to the salads as she weeded, and Joe was “rotovating”. This last task involves directing the small (but beastly) “rotovator”, nicknamed Don Pasquale (due to its brand name and origins). You could tell, by the bursts of hot air that hit you in the face as Joe passed, just how reluctant Don Pasquale was to be driven in a particular direction. But just like a skilled matador, Joe was able to steer the bull!

At twelve thirty we decided to take a well deserved lunch break during which we discussed fancy dress parties and the process of pepper maturation while we all tasted the first pickings of the pepper crop. The afternoon saw me back working on the beans. With the morning’s practice under my belt, and fuelled by my lunch, I ended up beating Michael in our little bean-planting race by a mile (who can make it to the end of their line first?!). But shhhhh, don’t hurt his ego!

Around four thirty I practically fell into the van, totally worn out by the beans. Which got me thinking – who on earth needs the gym when you can get such a great workout in a field?! I was so exhausted at the end of the day that I could barely keep my eyes open for the end of the all-important semi-finals of the Europa cup, and I felt it in my muscles the next morning too.

I haven’t mentioned yet that I’m Italian. This makes it desperately embarrassing to have to admit that I got terribly pink in the sun, even though it seemed to be hiding, deceptively, behind clouds all day. So I would strongly urge anyone working on the land at Cultivate this summer to slap on the sunshine cream!

But the fact that I’m Italian also means that I was born with a knack for cooking and a love of food. So here is my first Cultivate Recipe for you to try out with the Rainbow Chard that you can pick up on the VegVan!

Mamma’s Cheesy Chard (excellent with meaty things)

What you need:

  • Chard
  • Salt
  • Parmiggiano cheese
  • Cream, single or double
  • Butter to grease oven dish

What to do (quantities relative to amount of chard you have and how hungry you are)

  1. Grease the oven dish with butter and preheat the oven to 180ºC
  2. Wash the chard leaves and blanch (place for 1 min in boiling slated water)
  3. Pat the leaves dry and layer them at the bottom of the oven dish
  4. Add a generous splash of cream on top of the chard (about 75-80ml of cream for a layer of Chard leaves in an oven dish of approximately 30 x 60cm)
  5. If you have plenty of chard leaves repeat the process layering leaves and cream on top of each other
  6. Grate on a good covering of parmesan (Parmiggiano) cheese
  7. Place in the oven until the cheese has melted (10-15 mins)
  8. ENJOY!

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