Even if the Med diet wasn’t being held up as healthy and life-extending, it would surely be hard to resist the fruit and vegetables that make up the bulk of the diet. Brightly coloured peppers like toddlers’ toys, the deep red of ripe tomatoes with the promise of a burst of sweet-sharp juice when you cut into them, the deep velvet plush of aubergines … there is a sensual delight here that you just don’t get with parsnips, say, or turnips.
The ease with which these raw ingredients can be transformed into a finished dish is seductive too. Some chopped and fried garlic, a dressing of olive, oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and some herbs and you’re done. This is the rough basis for ratatouille, for pasta al pomodoro, for imam bayildi, and many others.
As with so many fruits and vegetables, what is readily available in the shops is only a fraction of the variety which exists. Commercial wholesalers make stocking decisions based on looks and uniformity, on disease resistance, on length of life in storage, which means that only a narrow range will be eligible for the shelves.
In growing your own Mediterranean vegetables, however, you only need to consider which types would taste the best and give you that intense Mediterranean flavour, that burst of warmth and sunshine and memory of thyme-scented hillsides. The idea of bringing a little of the Mediterranean back from your holidays on to the patio at home is very beguiling. These are attractive plants, not too difficult to raise from seed, which grow happily in pots, and so needn’t take up too much space.
On Sunday, the Secret Garden Club will look at the sowing, raising, harvesting and cooking of a wide variety of Mediterranean fruits and vegetables – including some interesting varieties of aubergines, chillies, peppers and tomatoes mentioned above, but also some others as well. If you’d like to find out just how you can bring a bit of the Med back to your back garden, and enjoy MsMarmiteLover’s famous and creative afternoon teas into the bargain, click here for booking details.