The diversity of tasks offered to a gardener, makes gardening perpetually rich and enjoyable. Planting, pruning and harvesting are the three main categories of tasks but, for each, a plethora of mini tasks make up the whole.
Last Thursday in the Food Garden of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, three of us became a new version of the Ladies of Shal(l)ott. One week before, a garden bed had been stripped of its long growing shallots (they take at least 6 months to mature and multiply from one planted bulb). In the intervening seven days they had been spread across open racks in order for their long straggling stems to dry. We loaded them into a basket and brought them to a table for the next stage of work to make them accessible for the charity to which they would be donated.
Our job was to frisk off dry outer layers, cut off most of the stem, and leave at least some of the dried roots.
Visitors watching us at work questioned whether these were onions. Technically, a shallot is a botanical variety of the onion but its characteristics are different from the common brown and the red onions that we all know so well. In particular, onions grow individually whereas shallots grow in clusters somewhat more akin to the way garlic grows. Whereas an onion will show rings when sliced, a shallot will look like a homogeneous clove.
During the morning, another harvest of shallots brought more to the gardening shed to be spread and dried for the coming week. At the end of the harvest a sizeable number of bulbs will be kept for planting in a few months’ time. The remainder will all be donated to the charity Second Bite to be distributed to disadvantaged people.
Having completed that task, we collected Lokalen garlic which had been drying for a period, and treated these in a similar fashion. Selected large bulbs with many cloves were set aside for planting later this year.
Ultimately these were ready for despatch.
We repeated the task with Duganski garlic. This time, the entire small crop was retained for planting.