I don’t want to sound like I’m moaning but pumpkin, I have decided, is the vegetable world’s equivalent of a Christmas turkey: it might seem like a good idea at the time but on the fifth day of eating it, the novelty starts to wear off a bit. Thank goodness we’ve only got two!
These are ‘Big Max’ and even though they seem to be 80% seed and pith, there’s a LOT of flesh to go at. We’ve eaten Smaller Max this week in a variety of ways, roasted several trays to freeze for soup and still he goes on! To be fair, the flavour isn’t bad and ‘spiced pumpkin and apple crumble’ turned out to be a truly scrumptious discovery. Still, next year I’m going to the opposite extreme and opting for little ‘Munchkin’ pumpkins and a wider variety of squashes instead – all much easier to deal with. I never was a fan of Christmas turkey, anyway!
Apart from pumpkin munching, it’s been a week of planting, harvesting and some long overdue tidying in the polytunnel. I’ve planted five rows of garlic (one pink, four white) next to the Japanese ‘Hi-Keeper’ onions which are going well, despite the best efforts of my resident mole.
I’ve put four globe artichoke plants into the old tomato patch with plenty of muck under them and some chives along the path for company. They’ll grow pretty huge but there should be room for some salad stuff between them next year.
Just the broad beans to go in now and that’s it with outside planting until spring.
I went out to pot up some pansies for winter colour by the front door and somehow ended up digging a flower border at the back of the veg patch instead (how do these things happen?). I’ve filled it with tulips, wallflowers and forget-me-nots for a splash of colour next May. It’s all a bit formal for me but very typical of local gardens so I’m trying to enter into the French spirit of things and it should at least attract some pollinators just as the broad beans and early peas need them.
The weather is still very warm but a couple of wet days were just the excuse I needed to start tidying the polytunnel. The melons have long since finished and the salad crops next to them were full of weeds and caterpillars (is there anywhere those wretched things don’t get?) so I’ve pulled the lot out. This corner of the tunnel was very dry so I’ve given it a good soaking with several buckets of rainwater; it’s also worked very hard over the last year so I’m going to dig in some muck and give it a well-earned rest over winter.
Next, time for the butternut squash plants to go and more water and muck to be carried in. Here I’ve planted some winter salad crops: ‘Winter Density’ lettuce transplanted from outside and a row each of rocket, oriental leaves and lamb’s lettuce. Along with several patches of self-set coriander, these should give us decent pickings of fresh green leaves all through the winter months, as long as some cold weather does for the caterpillars, of course.
Finally, my ‘beautiful’ recycled wardrobe potting bench which has become a bit of a dumping ground over the summer as well as being totally swamped by the cucumber plants. A good tidy up made room underneath for the geranium plants which I’m hoping will make it through winter given a fleecy blanket if we have heavy frosts. On top are plants I’ve raised from seed this year – mostly herbs – which I’ve finally got round to potting on after weeks of neglect. I have great plans for them all next year!
I persuaded Roger to abandon the building work for a while and we had a very happy afternoon picking apples and nuts – it’s been a brilliant year for both out here and there’s certainly plenty to go at. We have no idea what variety any of the apples are or whether they will cook or keep well so it’s all a bit of trial and error. No problem, I was quite happy to munch my way round the orchard in the name of scientific investigation (and sadly, I was too full for any pumpkin that night…).
The chestnuts have only just started to drop but the walnuts are coming thick and fast, we have picked buckets and buckets of them – they are real beauties. No sign of those other beauties, the red squirrels, who hammered them last year but there are so many nuts around perhaps they’re being kind to us this time. We’re drying them out to keep through winter (the nuts, not the squirrels) but have already cooked some up with butternut squash and spices – very tasty.
There was a major blip in the weather last weekend when the night time temperature, still well up into double figures, suddenly dipped to freezing. Our neighbours were horrified, this just doesn’t happen in October! I have to confess that we were secretly quite pleased: here was an excuse to light the wood-burning range (aka The Beast) for the first time since April and indulge ourselves. Bring on a great British roast, with onions sizzling round the meat, a tray of eight different roast veg ( including pumpkin, of course), creamed kale and buttered leeks… mmm, autumn comfort food at its best. What a treat. 🙂