Tuesday 10 December 2013

Little Golden Apples

One of the highlights of the Tournon St Pierre "Foire aux Arbres" on 24th November each year is a stall run by the local Lions Club, selling nothing but Leonidas chocolates and home-grown pumpkins, in aid of children's health charities. This year we noticed a bucket of tennis-ball sized yellow things, and we asked what they were."Pommes d'or", explained the stall holder. "Délicieuses!"

Ever fools for an unknown pumpkin, we picked out a matching pair, and handed over a euro.

For a fortnight they sat on the stairs with the Crown Princes.

Two yellow hand grenades
Last Friday night we ate them - rather too rapidly to take any pictures! That golden skin proved to be rather tougher than Kevlar™ - don't try to peel one - and it took me five minutes to cut around the stalks, at grave risk to my fingers, to make hats so that we could stuff them. I scraped out the seeds to reveal stringy-looking flesh, perhaps a centimetre thick, or a bit less. Unpromising. But it smelt good.

We pre-cooked the squashes in a lidded Pyrex casserole in the microwave for 10 minutes with a little water inside and out, while Tim made a stuffing of leftover pot-roast beef, onion and celeriac. Then we stuffed and baked them for half an hour, and served them with Pink Fir Apple potatoes and chard.

They were, indeed, delicious - incredibly rich, sweet, creamy flesh with flavours of honey and chestnut. We scraped out the last of the flesh with teaspoons, The skins have gone even harder, leaving a solid cup which looks as though it is made of bakelite.  Later I found the recommended approach to be roasting them whole until soft(er) then cutting, or you could puncture them with a barbecue skewer or hammer drill and microwave them whole likewise. Other Pomme d'Or fanatics describe the skin variously as
"wickedly hard...like cut your finger off if you try to slice it hard"
"The Hardest Substance Known to Man".
They are perfect for sound effects of horses' hooves

I found several recipes specifically for Pomme d'Or on the web, logged by people who had much the same experience as me: struggle, followed by doubt, then inspiration and finally exaltation. In the recipe here the Pommes d'Or are halved (after pre-cooking) and filled with a risotto of wild mushrooms. I think they would be good with a cheesy filling, like this one. Tim suggests filling them with Spiced Pumpkin Icecream and freezing them, to serve up for special guests. For a main course, you need to allow two Pommes d'Or per head; one apiece for a starter or dessert.

Sunlight through squash skin

But that would mean getting a whole lot more. A little research informed me that all the seeds available commercially originate in France and are AB (organic). Germinance claim to sell their seeds at The All-Green Pea, but no, the Bio Co-op doesn't sell seeds, at this time of year at least. An alternative is to buy on-line from Germinance, from Ferme St Marthe or their partner the Organic Gardening Catalogue in the UK.

Apparently Pomme d'Or plants are gallopers capable of producing 20 hand grenades each. No wonder they were on sale by the bucket full! They can be grown as a climber - they won't like it, though.

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