My reward for assuming gardening duties while my parents are away hiking enthusiastically over Swiss mountains, is the little feast I’m entitled, that I’m positively urged – ‘Oh and Rachel last thing, please don’t forget the beans!‘ concludes every phone conversation - to gather each day. I say gardening duties, that’s probably misleading, suggesting that I’m digging, planting, pruning or doing something vaguely green fingered or energetic! Which I’m not. Official waterer – a job which involves standing in the corner of the garden with an open hose pipe and pointing it in the direction of wilting plants, ideally with an alcoholic drink in the other hand – and sprinkler supervisor with deadheading duties, is probably a more accurate job description.
My reward this morning was pretty generous considering my slapdash work; about two pounds of runner beans, six rotund courgettes all with marvelous golden flowers – one of which, for some bizarre reason, reminded me of my secondary school counsellor Mrs Richards, a big handful of ruby chard, another of sultry dark green cavolo nero, three tomatoes (next week there will be three dozen), five figs and last but not least, the quintessential fruit of summer, seven blushing white peaches.
There were actually nine peaches ripe for picking this morning, but the first two were so soft and delicate they barely survived being twisted from the branch. I promptly ate them. Which turned out to be a luscious but rather messy process, so I leaned over the marigolds and the fragrant juice, sweet and reminiscent of roses, ran down my chin into the flower bed. Then I plonked myself on the wall, ate two figs, thought about how nice it was to be back in England and prepared myself for the next garden duty; cosmos and marigold dead heading. All quite charming until a formidably large bee, drunk on lavender, swerved in to see what was going on and I, in a slightly hysterical attempt to stop the striped chap landing on my sticky chin, also swerved, which meant I tripped and proceeded to fall over the sprinkler.
Damp, cursing the bloody sprinkler and nursing my first gardening injury, I abandoned my gardening duties for the day and read the newspaper under the fig tree. For a very late lunch/early dinner – a meal my batty friend calls lunner, she is convinced it is the new brunch – I made Pasta with courgettes followed by green romano beans dressed with salt and plenty of olive oil. To finish, an excellent Italian habit which is nicely and succinctly described by Elizabeth David in her book Italian Food.
‘Into your last glass of wine after lunch slice a (ripe) peeled yellow peach. Leave it a minute or two. Eat the peach and then drink the wine’
Delicious, the slices of peach become plump and heavy, the wine – in this case a pretty wonderful William Fèvre Chablis, another reward for gardening duties - subtly infused with sweet and fragrant peach juice. So much nicer than any number of fussy puddings I thought – as you’ve probably noticed, I’m never very interested in fussy puddings – before turning my attention to the exhausting holiday dilemma that is; should I doze in sun, read in the shade, attack the crossword or simply have another drink?
Vincenzo calls these pesche ubriache or drunk peaches, he prefers to slice his peach into red wine though. I’m very partial to white peaches in Prosecco too.