I found myself explaining recently that my summer travel would be severely curtailed as it was fruit season. The cherries, the plums, the apricots, the tomatoes – they wouldn’t look after themselves. I needed to be there to figure out what to do with them so that I could still enjoy them next year. My mate looked at me, somewhat aghast and said: Okay – who are you and what have you done with my friend? Theirs is not an uncommon reaction. Not everyone sees the magic of village life and country living. Why worry about a garden and invest all that time and energy when you can simply go to the supermarket and buy what you want? Why plan your shopping with military precision to ensure you have what you need in terms of spices and herbs so that you can cook a three-course Asian, Moroccan, Mexican (add whatever) meal when you can pick up the phone and order one in or choose for the myriad restaurants within a walk or a tram? How can you possibly survive without ready access to culture, without museums, without art galleries, without theatre, without a cinema on your doorstep? And as for the shopping…surely the novelty of flagging down the butcher’s van as he drives through the village on a Wednesday has worn off? And when you’ve your heart set on ribs and he has none, then what?
Village life isn’t for those who value convenience above all else. It’s not for those who need to socialise regularly with other people, those who need the buzz of a crowd, those who bore easily. That said though, there’s plenty by way of interesting meets. Coming back from Kehida yesterday evening, after a few hours soothing garden-weary limbs in the hot spa waters, we drove by a young fox. He was sitting in the middle of the road indulging in a good scratch, not in the least bit bothered by us. If anything, he seemed a tad curious. We drove slowly by, said hello, and kept going.
And there’s always something to learn.
Driving back from the healing forest in Slovenia on Saturday, we passed a large expanse of glorious red flowers, the sort of sight that stops you in your tracks, elicits a chorus of wows and then a minute of silent reverence. It was stunning. It’s unexpected moments like this that make me grateful for country living. Interspersed here and there was the occasional yellow of oilseed rape. Perhaps last year it had been a whole field of yellow and this year, the farmer had sown something else. But what?
A Google image search told me it might be a sugarbush:
Protea is both the botanical name and the English common name of a genus of South African flowering plants, sometimes also called sugarbushes or fynbos.
In local tradition, apparently, this red flower represents change and hope. How wonderful is that? There’s a change in the offing that has attached itself to a bellyful of hope that I’m making the right decision. And like any big decisions, the dream is dotted with doubt. So to see these flowers in bloom (and so many of them), I took that as a sign. That streak of superstition that runs through me comes in useful at times.
Still, I wasn’t sure that this was my flower. I read some more. Apparently, they’re named after Proteus, the shape-shifting son of Poseidon, precisely because they have so many shapes themselves.
The Proteaceae are a family of flowering plants predominantly distributed in the Southern Hemisphere. The family comprises 83 genera with about 1,660 known species.
I still wasn’t convinced though. Was someone growing them as decorative plants to sell at the market? I kept searching and came across the Longwood Gardens site. And what did I find? The Celosia argentea ‘Century Rose‘, also known as a Cockscomb. My flower. Grown as potted plants. Mystery solved. And yes, come to think of it, I had seen them in the market – single plants in a pot and not nearly as impressive.
But I still wasn’t happy. I couldn’t see a farmer uprooting each plant and potting it to sell. There were thousands of them. So I kept reading.
Celosia is a small genus of edible and ornamental plants in the amaranth family, Amaranthaceae.
Aha – so the Celosia is edible. More reading told me that it blooms in late summer, early autumn and while the temperatures we’ve been having are reminiscent of late autumn, the timing was off. But the flowers matched. On I read. In Nigeria, it’s considered a green vegetable called Soko yokoto which translates into ‘make husbands fat and happy’. Add all that up and you get an enterprising farmer in Slovenia who has big plans.
If any of you know more, please share. I’d be ever so grateful.