TELEVISION / Plots of gold

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The Independent Culture
THE television schedules traditionally go green on Friday evening, presumably because schedulers guess that the nation's gardeners are itching to get out delving, grafting and potting. As far as I'm concerned these verdant passages of foliage and blossom are more like a desert, an arid terrain of Latin names and earthy pedantry which has to be traversed to reach the urban oasis of Cheers and Roseanne.

Grow Your Greens (C 4) is quite a different matter, principally, I think, because it can be viewed not as a gardening programme but as an unusually zealous cookery programme. The title sequence (which it shares with its sister programme, Eat Your Greens) rather points this up with a series of visual puns on cooking and gardening. Gardening, it suggests, is just a more satisfying way of going shopping, a way of getting in touch with your roots as an omnivore, as well as those of the thing you're about to eat. There is something admirably greedy about the discoveries of vegetable gardeners - who was it, for example, who worked out that if you dug up witloof roots, buried them in sand for a fortnight and then planted them in the dark, that they would push up a delicious umbrella furl of ivory leaves tipped with gold? An unknown soldier of the tastebuds, anyway, to be honoured alongside the first person who ate an artichoke.

Whatever the case, the growing of vegetables is certainly devoid of the preciousness that attends routine gardening programmes. A baser appetite is involved here than the classifying, aesthetic, occasionally swooning spirit that is familiar when flowers and shrubs are under discussion - more haughty culture than horticulture. With vegetables the pleasure is that of filling your belly, not your mind.

You can see this on the ground - on the evidence of this programme, vegetable gardeners are not the most meticulous cultivators; their patches grow in slightly shambolic profusion, a rebuke to the poodled manicure of beds and lawn. Sophie Grigson wanders through these plots, nibbling approvingly at objects to which the soil still clings and injecting a hungry enthusiasm into the commentary. 'I found the next set of radishes even more exciting', she said at one point last night and you could almost imagine that her nose had twitched.

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