Growing the community

The SAGE intern: Cabbage moths and solar panels

From SAGE member Trevor Moore

The SAGE garden is a riot of greenery. Well, perhaps the word “riot” suggests a certain lack of randomness and disorganisation. That is not what I mean to imply; rather I mean that there is green everywhere and that, to my simple mind, suggests a productive garden. Leanne, of course, was as happy as always when I went to meet her. She was standing by her brassicas; these particular brassicas are cauliflowers. “I’m worried about these,” she said, “the cabbage moths have got them.” I looked at the plants and I could see that some beastie had been gorging itself on the leaves. The Latin name for the cabbage moth is Mamestra brassicae: Mamestra is a genus of moths of the Noctuidae family but the brassicae gives the game away. Leanne says, “the leaves of the plant are like solar panels so if there are chunks missing my cauliflowers will be smaller.” I tell her that small cauliflowers are more tasty. I’m not sure that makes her feel any better but I am already working out what I will be doing with these caulis when they’re ready.

The cabbage moths have been having a field day. They eat tobacco plants as well, but Leanne’s not growing tobacco.

We move on to look at her eggplants. These are, to coin a phrase, going gangbusters. I looked carefully at them. I am sure that the eggplant is the most camouflaged of all fruits. The fruit grow under a canopy of green leaves and when they’re in shadow they’re pretty hard to spot. The eggplant was unknown in the average 1960s English household when I grew up even though they were introduced to Europe in the 14th century. I am now, however, a massive fan though I doubt that my Mother ever cooked one. Although they don’t have an overwhelming supply of any one nutrient they have a veritable smörgåsbord of vitamins and minerals.

Leanne’s corn is looking good; they should be ready in a couple of weeks. She’s been worrying about her tomatoes for the last several weeks since she planted them (it’s fruit flies that go for them) but they looked pretty good to my untrained eye.

SAGE President Mark Barraclough on his knees in awe of the progress made during Leanne’s internship.

Leanne is beginning to think about what comes next for her. The internship finishes at the end of May, so she has one more planting to do. A new intern will arrive at the beginning of August by which time the soil will have had a chance to rest. SAGE’s President Mark Barraclough has been helping Leanne to think through the business economics of market gardens (that’s actually what’s happening in the photo above). Leanne will have some big choices to make but then that’s what life is about really. Just don’t overthink the choices; it is far better to be vaguely right than to be precisely wrong.

Chargrilled eggplant

My daughter lived with me when she was in her teens. I used to make this regularly. The challenge was to make it faster than she could eat it.

  • Heat a griddle pan or a BBQ: you want it pretty hot
  • Take 1 eggplant (or more than 1 eggplant and it doesn’t matter what type or size)
  • Cut it into thin slices (perhaps 2 – 3mm thick)
  • Meanwhile finely chop several cloves of garlic (I would do 3 or 4 cloves for a reasonable sized eggplant, it depends whether you like garlic)
  • Take a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid and put the garlic in the bottom with a tablespoon of olive oil
  • Coat the slices of eggplant with oil (I use one of those spray cans) and cook them in batches on the griddle
  • Turn them over so they are charred on both sides and when they’re ready put the batch in the plastic container and put the lid on tightly. You are trying to get the garlic to infuse in the steam that the eggplant will give off
  • Toss them around in the container as you go to spread the garlic around
  • Eat them warm or cold (if there are any left)

Some of Leanne’s eggplants. You can’t beat the colour, just beautiful

Follow Leanne’s work, and the other things that SAGE is doing, on Instagram and Facebook.

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