pumpkins

Pumpkin and choko dauphinoise

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Sliced ingredients, ready for the baking dish
Sliced ingredients, ready for the baking dish

In another of our series of choko recipes, this is a variation on the classic potato dauphinoise, only with pumpkin, choko and radishes.

The method is simple:

Slice the ingredients thinly, using a mandolin or knife.

Layering up the vegetables
Layering up the vegetables

Then layer the vegetables in a small, high-sided baking dish. Alternate the ingredients, adding small knobs of butter as you go. I also added some dried sage (home-made of course!), salt and pepper.

Then pour in cream, to come up the level of the vegetables.

Bake in a 180°C oven for 45mins. I then added a layer of grated cheese (why not!), and baked until golden brown.

Delicious!
Delicious!

The result was delicious with pork sausages and peas 🙂

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A pile ‘o pumpkins

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Five pumpkins in a row...
Five pumpkins in a row…

While the Sydney climate is tremendously mild, which is great for many crops, it also encourages the growth of a heap of pests and diseases.

In particular, we’ve had little luck with pumpkins, cucumbers, and many types of beans and peas. Inevitably, they get attacked by powdery mildew, and that’s the end of them.

While I’ve found resistant varieties of peas and beans, I’d pretty much given up on pumpkins, etc.

So when one self-seeded in the garden in spring, I let it run, to see how long it would last before the mildew killed it off. The answer turned out to be: a long time, as evidenced in the picture above.

I think these are Queensland Blues, or similar, and they grew with great abandon, producing fruit after fruit.

In total, we harvest five pumpkins, with a total weight of approx. 21kg.

That’s a lot of pumpkin! 🙂

It highlights an important general principle, of the value of locally adapted crops. We’ll definitely be saving the seeds from these pumpkins, and planting them in future seasons…

Update on our food forest

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Apple tree growing happily in our food forest

About six months ago, I cleared a overgrown mass of privet in the convent’s land behind our house to create a new food forest. Apple trees were ordered and planted, along with a bunch of other fruit trees.

This quickly became the first round of a multi-year war against weeds. With the warm, wet weather, the privet was immediately replaced by half a dozen varieties of invasive weeds, which are now several metres high.

Starting at the near end, I’ve been countering this by laying down newspaper, and piles of mulch (kindly donated by a local tree trimming company). A variety of plants have been established as part of the ‘apple tree guild’:

  • comfrey
  • lavender
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • oregano

I’ve also been planting a number of dominant vegetables to act as ground cover:

  • multiple types of pumpkin (normal and heirloom varieties)
  • watermelons
  • rockmelons
  • cucumbers

It’s clear that this will take some time, years most likely. Still, it’s a good weekend project…

The big surprise has been the hundreds of cherry tomato plants that have come up amongst the weeds. We’re not sure whether these came from the neighbours chucking tomatoes over their back fence, or from seeds being dropped by birds.

We’re not complaining either way, as we’ve already harvested 2-3kg of cherry tomatoes for ‘free’, having done nothing but watch the plants grow. There’s probably 10-20kg of tomatoes yet to grow and ripen, if we can find the time to pick them…

PS. in the end, the food forest is likely to become a ‘convent garden’ rather than a community garden. I’ll be the ‘head convent gardener’, with a produce-sharing arrangement in place. A good win-win outcome! 🙂

Three little pumpkins in a row

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The first three pumpkins, in decreasing size

Now that the holiday season has passed, it’s probably time I got back into the blogging. Let’s kick things off with our first three pumpkins out of the garden.

Our small variety have gone great, with three more pumpkins on the way. Our large pumpkin plants seem more intent on taking over the world than producing edible bounty.

Following instructions I read somewhere, I’m drying out the pumpkins for a week, and then putting them under the house where it’s cool and dry. Apparently leaving on some of the stalk improves their shelf life.

(And yes, the third pumpkin is tiny. For some reason it decided to stop growing at that point, and waste-not-want-not…)

We have pumpkins

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The "Small Sugar" pumpkins are the stars of the show

Last week I was in Northern California for work, and pumpkins were everywhere. Piled up in fields, filling fruit vendor’s stalls, on window sills and beside doors. It was definitely the season for pumpkins.

I was therefore excited to come home to some pumpkins of our own. I stashed seeds in corners throughout the gardens, and all have been growing well. The smaller “Small Sugar” variety have been the stars, flowering early under large healthy leaves.

We’ve been getting the hang of hand pollination. The female flowers have a round bulb at their base (which becomes the pumpkin), and pollen from the male flowers is hand deposited onto them. The only challenge was that for the first few weeks we’d get one flower at a time, either male or female but never both. Very frustrating!

Still, we got there in the end, and have three pumpkins growing, with the promise of more. (We’re still waiting for our full-sized pumpkin plants to stop trying to take over the world, and to get on with producing fruit.)

Bush beans coming up

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Bush beans rapidly growing in size
Bush beans rapidly growing in size

Despite the earlier bad news, the first of our bush beans are pushing themselves forcefully out of the ground. They are a week late, so perhaps seed storage in the fridge put them into a dormant state, rather than killing them outright.

One lonely pumpkin has also come up, which I’ve supplemented with two others that have sprung up out of our compost. Spring is definitely here…

Planting record: beans and pumpkins

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I did some gardening this morning before work, and for my planting record, this is what went into my new garden beds:

  • Bean, Violet Queen Bush Bean – harvest in 60d
  • Bean, Sex Without Strings (dwarf butter bean) – harvest in 87d
  • Bean, Gourmet’s Delight (dwarf bush bean) – harvest in 60-70d
  • Bean, Stringless Pioneer (dwarf bush bean) – harvest in 60-70d
  • Pumpkin, Golden Nugget
  • Pumpkin, Buttercup – harvest in 120d

(I’ll do a more complete post, including garden diagram, in the next week or two.)