Written by Sarah Hendrickx


Turning Portuguese? Black market broccoli

In her regular column, Sarah Hendrickx shares with us what it’s like living part-time in Portugal. This month, she’s gleefully high-fiving broccoli and encouraging Keith to widdle to his bladder’s content.


Florets appeal: there’s no broccoli shortage in Sarah’s garden.

It’s not often that one gets to feel as though the world is in the palm of one’s hand; to know that you, little you, are in a position of power, strength and superiority over those who typically would not even give you the shit off their shoe. Although, people like that ought to be more careful where they walk, and why the hell are they guarding their shit so fiercely?

A few weeks ago, headlines like these flung themselves inkily across the pages of our newspapers:

‘THERE’S SNOW ESCAPE: As courgette crisis spreads to broccoli and salad, experts predict shortages could last TWO more months’ – The Sun, 19 January 2017

‘Veg crisis rages on as broccoli is now under threat’ – Metro, 5 February 2017

Supermarkets were rationing the ‘bulk purchasing’ of aubergines, cabbage and courgettes, because everyone does that. My aubergine collection is really coming along. The word ‘crisis’ when combined with the word ‘vegetables’ appeared at an unprecedented rate. The problem, it was claimed, was that the weather in Southern Spain had been unusually cold and wet, leading to damaged and low-yield crops of certain produce.

But is that really true?

You may wonder at the root of my suspicion, perhaps because you don’t know that I am suspicious of pretty much everything in the world. Meerkats with a firm grasp of the car insurance market? I just don’t believe it. Sanitary towels that turn me into a slim, attractive, smiley person with friends? I don’t think so. Call me Mrs/Ms/Mx/Madame/Sir Cynical if you like, but that’s the way I roll.

Plenty more where this came from.

The reason I am imbued with such disbelief is that in my little corner of the Mediterranean, there currently grows more broccoli than you can shake a stick at. And shaking sticks at broccoli is an ancient Portuguese custom. It frightens the caterpillars away or something.

I know that readers of this column are familiar with my unashamed gloating concerning my excessive vegetable production – which is actually the result of extremely poor planning and a non-existent understanding of the concept of succession planting rather than any gardening prowess.

But this is different: these commercial farms across the Med have plastic tunnels, pesticides, fertilisers and skill and yet they have still failed to do the one thing that was required of them: satisfy the British need for spiralised courgettes. That, my friends, is shocking.

“Grow your own vegetables and you too can scoff loudly and smugly at your neighbours’ pain at having to tell their child that their birthday tea will be coming without cabbage this year.”

It turns out that my dusty plot complete with food waste, horse shit and a large quantity of Keith’s piss delivered by way of his manly territorial outdoor widdling has succeeded where industry has failed. David tweaks Goliath’s nipples and sends him crashing to the ground. I win at gardening.

So, now where to turn with this triumph over the big guns, weather and unnatural vegetable growing methodology? To the supermarkets and the farmers, of course. We need to have a word or two about some serious business deals to be had, or some highly lucrative consultancy work at least.

I can currently supply the broccoli needs of about 20 people for a couple of days, or sell them a few gallons of Keith’s piss to kickstart the entire industry or something. That has to be worth some serious negotiation and could avert the ‘crisis’ into a ‘mild inconvenience’. We wouldn’t want all those British people having to revert to eating real pasta now, would we?

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

The ‘crisis’ aside, what this should alert the populace to is that relying on overseas vegetables grown by, frankly, amateurs, is a mistake unless you want your children and your children’s children to know that you learned nothing from this ‘disaster’ and that their salad related strife could have been averted.

Grow your own vegetables, people. Get an allotment, a growbag a plant pot. Plant something. Don’t use polytunnels, chemicals or badly paid, unprotected migrant labour; use love. And some water, and a splash of daylight.

Do this and you too can scoff loudly and smugly at your neighbours’ pain at having to tell their child that their birthday tea will be coming without cabbage this year. Or sell yours to them, at a vastly inflated price which adequately recompenses your brilliance and their stupidity and lack of planning.

I am away from my apparently highly successful, organic permaculture, piss-filled garden for a week or two and on my return expect to see a veritable forest of florets swaying in the wind, towering above my head and that of the cat from next door.

I shall run through their waving leaves giving each a high five as I pass for just being great and for being there. And then I shall wonder what the fuck I am going to do with all this broccoli.

Tesco: call me.

Read all of Sarah’s ex-pat adventures here.


  • googleplus
  • linkedin
  • rss
  • pinterest

Written by Sarah Hendrickx

Sarah Hendrickx is a writer, author, autism specialist and occasional standup comedian. She lives part-time in rural Portugal where she tries to make friends with geckos and grows broad beans. Her book about moving overseas, How to Leave the Country is available on Kindle/e-book. She blogs at www.bicyclesandbiscuits.com.