Pumpkins or winter squash if you will are a favourite of mine to grow on the allotment. With their huge canopies of leaves, sprawling vines reaching out for who knows where and their treasures of fruit hidden underneath.
They come in every shape, size and colour. I don’t think I could ever get tired growing these beauties. Watching first the female then the male flowers, noticing a small fruit behind the female flower slowly fattening up. Seeing them take on their shape and later on their distinct colours, leaving them on the vines for as long as possible to ripen up in the late Autumn sunshine. And finally picking them, counting the total haul, cutting them from the now withering vines, cleaning them up and storing them for winter use.
For an other wise busy gardener they are gems to grow, needing little or no attention after they have settled in. Planted in a rich mix of compost and manure, slightly raised so the plant doesn’t rot. Watering them in well, giving them a mulch to help the soil around them from drying out and then standing back and letting nature run its course.
Every year I grow a few tried and trusted squash and a couple that are new to me. They are all grown for eating and not for decoration, although that isn’t strictly true as I tend to keep them on the window sills over winter, we all seem fine with that arrangement.
What do I look for in squash to grow? Well tasty for starters, nice firm flesh, I prefer thin-walled and thick dense flesh varieties, good storers, and ones that frankly appeal to my eye. Growing Squash in the UK also means I have to look out for varieties that will grow to maturity and ripen quickly.
Crown Prince and Queensland Blue are ALWAYS grown, they tick all the above boxes. Little Gem Rolet’s are grown for eating young and cooking whole, Marina Di Choggia is grown for its looks, and it’s dry flesh is perfect for Gnocchi, Potimarron for its beauty and practicality of size, useful when there are only 2 of you, Rouge Vif D’Etamps is another favourite for winter eating and storage. After that it’s a free for all based on what seeds I have, what I’ve picked up in swaps, what I fancy and of course what space is left.
It’s a while yet before I sow squash seeds (indoors in mid April for planting out in late May) they need warmth and long days, and frost-free growing conditions. We are still eating them so for this blog I can still cook and write about them.
These photos are of Crown Prince, taken when just picked through to now. Yes we bought some squash with us to the Alps, well I couldn’t let all my non-hard work go to waste now could I ? I’ll be using this 2.5 kg beaut over the coming weeks in curries, lasagna, maybe a cake, definitely some Biscotti, and maybe even some soup… Nothing will go to waste as the seeds will be roasted with a bit of olive oil, some chilli flakes and sea-salt. I’ll post the recipes as we eat our way through the squash.