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Cauliflowers in inner-city jungle

I came home cradling it proudly -- a cauliflower the size of a football that my inner-city allotment had managed to produce like a rabbit from a hat.

Until that evening I was pretty down on the cauliflowers. They had arrived as a tray of seedlings from Lidl, were put into our tiny raised bed at home and grew leathery green leaves that were too big. With little tenderness I yanked them from their small space, put them in the bike basket and planted them out in the open of the new allotment.

They wilted a little but then they thrived. The leathery leaves grew larger again. And that was it, all leaves and no vegetables. I thought I had missed out on the bit that made the cauliflower grow in the centre, or bought mislabelled plants.

Then when I was watering them, there they were. From zero to hero in 12 weeks. Some are the size of tennis balls, hidden in the paler central leaves. Others, like my prize specimen, are huge. Back home I sliced it thinly, ate it raw and then fried some of the rest lightly in nut oil.

The Weaver Court allotments are starting to burst with food and flowers thanks to the mixture of showers, sun and a bit of warmth. Everyone is doing something slightly different with their patch here at the allotments. There are quirky ornaments and strings of CDs glinting in sunlight to keep the birds off seedlings.

The most impressive arrival is a tall elegant bronze sculpture that was delivered to yoga teacher Jett's patch, near mine. It's called Ladybird and she stands on a plinth looking down at the vegetables, the top part of her head, where her eyes and nose would be, sculpted into a beak. She arrived as a surprise act of contrition from Jett's sculptor partner, for a night on the tiles.

And we got to show both the sculpture and the cauliflowers off to the camera last week when TV3's Martin King arrived to film a piece about the project.

I'm keeping a mental note of my rookie mistakes. Top of the list is planting too many pak choi plants. There are only so many chicken noodle dishes I can eat.

On the plus side the flowers have attracted bees. But I had enough of them, pulled them out and started a compost heap.

The Jerusalem artichokes that came free from a gardener in Templeogue have started to head to the sky. They will grow up to 9ft tall. I'm glad I googled them and put them on the northern boundary of the patch.

Gardening by google is easy these days. There is a world of people out there, experts and novices, sharing tips and knowledge. Some photograph what they've grown and post them online.

Until last week's prize cauliflower moment I would have written that off as just slightly weird. Now I understand the idea of turning a corner of the internet into a tent at the village vegetable show.

Twitter.com/catherineeats Sponsored by Dublin City Council


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