For many people, the New Year heralds a sigh of relief with its promise of clean slates and forward-thinking, yet for me, the month of January is always filled with frustration. Its etymology contains happy nudges towards the actions associated with the New Year: namely, rejuvenation and reflection. Specifically, January is related to both the double-headed Roman god of new beginnings, Janus, and the fearsome warrior-goddess Juno [*for those interested, see P.S. for etymology/history]. But for me, January is a waiting game lodged between the two of them. Having reflected on last year’s successes and failures, and having planned most of the whats-and-wheres for growing in 2015, I am very eager to start getting my hands dirty.
Although there are still things to be foraged at this time of year — from tansies to incredibly tardy apples — the excitement of the heights of the mushroom season has died down considerably, and I find myself like a child counting down to Christmas thinking about the seas of wild garlic that will soon surface again from the deep. Happily, the relative quiet of the outdoors has had me creating all kinds of fermented concoctions at home: from staples such as sourdough to yoghurt and delicious beer.
Winter is a particularly good time for beer making, as it is easier for many people to maintain constant temperatures, unhampered by the fluctuations of the summer months. This year I have assisted in brewing an absolutely delicious porter, as well as an APA. We’re still very much in the early stages of beer manufacturing, but it is a deeply satisfying pursuit and I’ve been very impressed with the results.
So, what will you be growing this year? As far as legumes are concerned, I am looking forward to growing some Painted Lady beans and training them up the side of a hut at the end of the garden. I’m also going to be growing some Lancastrian carlin peas, affectionately known as Black Badgers.
Etymology notes: Whilst January’s links with Janus may be apparent in his depiction of looking towards both past and future, the relation to Juno to rejuvenation can be found in Plutarch’s Questiones Romanae, a collection of essays giving us a peek in to Greek and Roman life. Specifically, it is said that “Iuononi nomen est iuvenescendo: & iononem vocant Lucinam”, *very* roughly, “they name her Juno, from juvescendo: and they call her Lucina”. The word ‘juvescendo’ is where we find the link to ‘rejuvenation’.