writings from the patio – mid-spring

It’s late morning in early October, almost mid-way through spring, and I am sitting outside on the patio with a cup of tea and my laptop computer. Before I begin writing, I take the time to look about me. The sun is riding high in a blue sky. After a cold and very prolonged winter, the heat is building quickly. A shift of air brings a waft of coolness to the patio. Dragonflies are darting through the garden, their wings flashing in the sunshine.

I have two dogs, Chloe and Craig. As usual, Chloe is sleeping close by. She doesn’t like vehicles and eyes me suspiciously whenever I walk towards the car. She suffers from motion sickness, which is probably why she avoids moving as much as possible. Craig, my other dog, is hunting for little brown lizards in the sunny parts of the garden. There are bees, both European and native bees working busily on the flowers. There are also hover-flies who also seek nectar from the flowers. An occasional fly buzzes lazily by. In the background I can hear the chatter of parrots in the bush and in one of the large eucalyptus trees, a magpie is warbling softly.

The patio is partially enclosed by potted citrus trees and other plants, including flowers and bulbs and herbs; thyme, lemon thyme, oreganos, lavender, sage, mint and rosemary. Now that spring has finally arrived the patio has become my favourite place to write.

As I finish my tea and settle to the task of writing a light breeze a light breeze springs up; I watch the tops of the trees moving and then my gaze shifts. The long grasses, running now to seed are moving to and fro in slow, rolling waves. The perfumed ruffle of a breeze caresses my skin. It carries the scent of nemesia, the ornamental cherry Mt Fuji, and the warm, earthy scent of green grass; all redolent of spring.

Nemesia brings a burst of colour to the patio. Copyright J Bayliss 2015

Nemesia brings a burst of colour to the patio. Copyright J Bayliss 2015

The potted herbs are beginning to put forth new shoots but the mint which was well protected from frost damage throughout the long winter months is now bounding ahead. Each morning it appears to have grown two or three centimetres overnight. Now the warmer weather is here, the lush green shoots remind me of a simple potato salad made with chat potatoes and chopped mint.

Simple Potato Salad

12 new season chat potatoes or other potatoes of your choice.

Pinch of salt for seasoning the water

1 spring onion

1 tbsp good quantity egg mayonnaise

1 tbsp Greek yoghurt (light if you wish)

2 rashers of bacon or four short pieces if you don’t like bacon fat

3-4 sprigs of mint – chopped very fine.

I use home-grown mint, and usually only pick the tips. If the shoots are soft, take some of the mature leaves as well. It all depends on your own taste, but I don’t like course mint leaves.

Cut potatoes into the size you want. I favour larger pieces and I generally leave the skin on. Boil in salted water until they are cooked through; just when they lose that firmness but before soft and mushy. Stop the cooking process if necessary by putting them into cold water.

When the potatoes have cooled, add finely chopped spring onions, and chopped mint leaves. The common garden mint is spearmint. You can add crisped bacon pieces if you want to, I often do, but this recipe is for a simple potato salad. The emphasis is on the potatoes and the mint. I generally use a good quality egg mayonnaise with greek yoghurt or sour cream added. I experiment with dressings but I like a hint of mustard or lemon, so they are usually a given. You decide what the star of the dish is.

A riot of spearmint.

A riot of spearmint.