It begins as subtle sophistication with the white of snowdrops, then progresses to the soft mauves, pinks and yellows of crocuses and hyacinths and, a short while later, the slightly stronger yellow of trumpeting daffodils. Blossom decorates the trees with delicate hues, the magnolias bloom in their exotic purple, pink and white strangeness and the lilac trees bring forth their scented flower. With these gentle colours nature apprises us that spring is definitely under way.
And just as our seasonal souls are adjusting to these comforting colours, a wholly different tone comes marching into our fields. It starts off the colour of an unripe lemon, with all the sourness that implies, and over the days the lemon ripens and the soothing patchwork of fields in varying greens becomes rudely interrupted by a bombastic, acid yellow interloper.
In discussion with the family on the subject of these vast swathes of yellow, my daughter said, ‘I know! They are a bit of a shock.’ And I thought, Yes … that is exactly what they are – a shock.
Driving along, calmly minding one’s own business, vaguely aware of the rolling green fields casually passing by, a shock of yellow suddenly screams into view.
When did this start? I don’t remember this as a child.
This is the introduction of oilseed rape into the farming calendar. The name is derived from the Latin rapum, meaning turnip. The crop is not only grown for its oil but also because it improves the quality of the soil and was introduced to the UK as part of a farming initiative in the 1970s.
Oilseed rape is a member of the Brassicaceae family – the mustard or cabbage family. Historically the oil has been used to light lamps, make soaps and lubricate steam engines. Today it is used as a vegetable cooking oil and for bio diesel. In China, Vietnam and Japan some varieties are eaten as a vegetable and in India and Nepal they are eaten in place of sag or spinach.
It seems that the shock of the yellow is here to stay.
In luring us away from the gentle colours of spring, this shriek of a colour seems to declare:
Come On! Spring is nearly over and summer is coming. Get out into the world and get on with your life!
So I will do just that.