March Marching Marched.
Otago in March was, as the old saying doesn’t go: 'In like a pangolin and out like a polar bear’.
We were off to a roaring March start with a continued lazy heat wave, long nights of outdoor entertaining, vigilant watering with G&Ts in hand. Late in the month found us driven inside next to the fire enjoying a Bendigo pinot noir with wind, rain and/or frost prevailing outside. Such a contrast to Otago’s famed long, sunny, dry autumn.
In the garden the zucchinis succumbed to the early frosts late in the month and ceased production. Despite us and all the neighbors drowning in marrows, no one felt they could see the end of. Thus overnight, the courgette story ended. An autumn bean crop fell at the first hurdle and now stand as little brown sprouts that almost were. Radishes and some of the lettuce varieties are a bit braver and less tender, though I can tell you that the name accompanying the freshness and crunch of an ‘iceberg lettuce’ reminiscent of an iceberg, is not named for its winter hardiness.
Out in the vineyard with nets on, the grape crop is protected from the flocks and shocks of birds. The few stray blackbirds eye up the weak areas that the diligent sewing repair crew inevitably miss and the vineyard hounds make bigger by squeezing their bodies through what only their noses can fit. The crew do a pretty top job, so the birds have a very challenging time devising an exit strategy post-feast! It is truly a wonder that they are able to fly after attending Valli Vineyards ‘All You Can Eat Buffet’!
Set the Autumn to 20-23*c.
Begin by taking 4 ha of healthy happy vines that have been soaked in year-round tender loving care. Mix sunshine and clear skies and add a dash of pre-chilled evenings.
At the same time, ensure that the ripeness is uniform by dropping bunches that are immature.
Cover with nets and let stand for 6 weeks.
note: refer to index for the recipe for Verjus.
Put collected unripe greenish grapes into a bucket and unceremoniously stomp on them with unwashed feet. Finely strain into sterilised bottle with small quantity citric acid.
Recommended Storage: in the fridge, top shelf, back corner, behind Aunt Ethel’s rhubarb banana basil chutney. Use when found, preferably after 4 years.