Friday 16 October 2015

Naked upon a pumpkin

The morning of October 13th brought with it a sharp frost that cut down our pumpkin, courgette and cucumber plants into a mushy confusion of twisted stems and disintegrating leaves, with here and there a fruit showing through. Since then the temperature has stayed at wintery levels, although without an actual frost. Time to gather in the squashes.

The squash bed ("the Maggot"), 28th September 2015
In past years we have blogged about our favourite pumpkins, e.g. see here. Needless to say we grew them again.

This year's top statistics:
  • 10 Crown Prince pumpkins at a total weight of 31.442 kg. Additionally there are two immature ones weighing just over 1kg each, which may not come to anything
  • 12 Butternut squashes totalling 7.135 kg. The two small ones are earmarked for a squash fan for her own personal consumption!
  • 2 Sweet Dumpling a.k.a. Patidou at 1.137kg plus one we have already eaten 
  • 2 Sweet Dumpling / Butternut hybrids and a strange yellow thing (Yellow Crookneck cross Butternut?) that germinated on the compost heap.
Mainly out of curiosity, we grew a couple of pumpkins for edible seed this year. The pumpkin seeds that are on sale as healthy snacks aren't milled or in any way treated to remove a hard seed coat. The varieties of pumpkin that give pumpkin seeds just don't have a seed coat to speak of. They are called "Naked Seed Pumpkins". The only readily available variety is called "Godiva" (snigger). But wait! Surely there is an excellent source of seeds. Your local supermarket sells the stuff by the ton, 250gm at a time! In April I took a couple from a Bio Coop packet, making sure they were undamaged. The small print identified the variety as Styriaca, and they came from the Ukraine. They germinated readily, and grew into compact plants. Each bore one fruit.

Styriaca pumpkin, 28th September
By 12th October one fruit was ripe, almost entirely orange and ready to pick.

Ready for dissection
And here is the result.

Fresh pumpkin seeds

From the weight and the price of a 250gm pack, we calculated the value at 83 centimes. They are much juicier than shop-bought seeds, though. They will be put through the food drier for half an hour or so.

Our allotmenting colleague Steve Shillitoe, from whom we learned of this ploy, reckons that the fruit is edible too, so we'll give it a try.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

The tortoise and the hare

I sowed a row of "Guernsey" parsnips in the potager on 30th April this year. After a prolonged sulk they germinated. On 4th September I had six little parsnip seedlings in a row. That was four months while they decided whether to die or to live after all.

A little row of parsnips - 6th September 2015

Parsnip seedlings, 17th September 2015
By contrast, on 7th August, Alvaro (workawayer) and I sowed two rows of Avola peas. The first of these came into flower on 4th September, and there are now fat pods forming with plenty of flowers to come. Avola went from dry seed to a healthy set of plants with flowers on in four weeks precisely. We picked enough peas for a meal on 30th September and the plants are going strong at two months old.

Avola peas, 6th September 2015
Avola peas, 26th September 2015
My original seeds came from the Kew collection and the current lot  from Plants of Distinction. Both, like many other UK seeds merchants, send seeds to France with no problems. But Avola will now be Alvaro peas to us.

Interesting that the slowest and the fastest germination should both turn up on the same day.

Also coming up: self-seeded parsley and coriander. Parsley is reputed to go to the devil and back before it germinates, but if you sow fresh seed in August, it comes up ready for action immediately

On the other hand, we have discovered the existence of N-space, where the nuts come from. No matter how thoroughly we check the filbert bushes, there is still another nut to be found. Somebody in N-space is moving nuts into space-time continuum version 1.0, hanging them up on the branches and giggling.

This filbert was not here a few minutes ago.
The occupants of N-space have not gifted our walnut tree with much by the way  of fruit this year. Tim and Betsy cleared the bank under the tree and we concluded that it was not worth the effort to fit the tree with a nappy* as we did last year. The discovery of a second - wild - walnut on the riverbank just below the weir put the tin hat on it. The second tree is invisible among the ash trees and produces smaller nuts than the old tree, which was a selected variety rather than a chance seedling. They are neck and neck in weight of nuts, at a couple of kilos apiece - that will be plenty!

Tim and Betsy under the walnut tree heading straight for the millstream
*walnut nappy - catches the nuts that would otherwise fall into the millstream.