The Softer Crofter – a cocktail of green

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We’ve created a wee tropical nook on this windswept edge of Argyll.

The veggies inside our Polycrub have no idea they’re growing on a cold, salty ridge on the north Atlantic coast.

With its profusion of chillis, onions, limes and tomatoes, the greenhouse/polytunnel smells like a salsa-drenched burrito bowl and looks like a misplaced wee bit of the Amazon.

The long, furry arms of dozens of squash plants twist all across the ground, their huge yellow flowers now sprouting glossy green and yellow courgettes.

The rocket, wasabi, coriander and basil have all gone feral and have escaped the confines of their neat little wooden beds and are heading for the door.

They’ll get a heck of a fright if they do manage to make the great escape.

This week our wee bit of hillside has been pummelled by rain and faced temperatures unseasonably low even for Scotland.

Out there in the real world the locals are doing fine. Potatoes, broccoli, turnip are quite the thing, braving the elements and taking their own sweet time.

In contrast, the hardier breeds that have been cosseted with shelter and warmth in our cosy wee haven are struggling.

In an attempt to lengthen our harvest we’re growing some crops both inside and out, but the brassicas just got too excited too early and have bolted and gone to flower.

Huge leafy cauliflowers have produced spindly miniature florets or none at all.

Dr Google tells us the soil has been too warm for them, but the abundance of cauliflower leaves will be welcome news elsewhere on the croft as it’s a firm favourite with the always-ravenous saddlebacks.

And it’s not just the pigs eating the scraps from the Polycrub.

Thanks to a great local foraging course I now know not to chuck the sorrel, fat hen and chickweed in the compost.

We’ve had some interesting salads since I’ve managed to reassure the family I’m not about to serve them hemlock; well, not deliberately.

The challenge now is ensuring none of the leafy abundance goes to waste.

Thanks to the lovely Nigella our fridge is lined with jars of her green sauce; a zesty coriander, lime and chilli combo that adds spice to any meal.

At our kitchen table it accompanies everything, from venison fillets to fish-fingers.

Alongside it on the kitchen shelf is rocket pesto, dill dip and tonnes of mint sauce, but I’ve been struggling to find any kind of preserve that will use up the glut of sage that’s taking over a large corner of the Polycrub.

Adding a wee bit to applesauce or frying it up alongside our bacon is fine, but we just couldn’t use enough of the stuff.

That was until a desperate web-search introduced me to the wonderful world of mixology. Turns out I’m a bit late to the party.

Cocktail-making has shaken up the booze world throughout lockdown and while we’ve been carefully nurturing our Chardonnay vines in the hope of a glass or two in years to come, everyone else has been shaking, stirring and blending a wild mix of concoctions. Well, if you can’t beat them…

We’ve joined the party now – in style. Anyone for a Sage Gin Martini? A Smoky Sage? A Blood Sage? A Sage Margarita? It appears there’s no limit to the boozy uses for this prolific little herb.

Boil a bunch of it with an obscene amount of sugar and you have a syrup that’s ready to party with any spirit that takes your fancy.

At the very least it’ll tide us over until the Softer Crofter Chardonnay is reading for bottling.