Lessons in Pumpkins- 10 top tips on growing and storing

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Pumpkin growing lessons arrived thick a fast, starting from the multitude of pumpkin seedlings that shot out from anywhere I plonked compost. To the cutting into that first perfectly formed all rounded pumpkin body. Everything in between was all part of the ‘Pumpkin Education’.

Lesson #1 Pumpkins are EVERYWHERE

These little ladies popped up well and truly everywhere. Anywhere I put compost. There was pumpkin seedlings ready to go. Far too many for the various garden beds so I was selective and only kept the most robust looking ones to continue growing. They are heavy feeders, so keep them going in a good amount of that compost, they’ll love you for it.

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Lesson #2 Pumpkins need SPACE

While their root system isn’t particularly extensive their runners are. They will keep reaching out, and will gently root where ever they’re running along the ground. That’s all good. Just let them do their thing.

 

Lesson #3 Male or Female FLOWERS?

It’s pretty easy to tell a male and female flower. One clearly has a small pumpkin forming beneath the flower, the other is just an elongated flower. The flowers are open for 4-6 hours generally early in the morning. With our garden beds there was ratio of 1:10 girl, boy flowers.

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Lesson #4 Female flowers are DROPPING OFF

For a variety of reasons this can happen. Too hot, not getting pollinated, not enough water? I despaired watching every single one of the small baby female pumpkins drop off. What to do? I couldn’t control the weather, I did the best that I could with keeping water up to them, and having a multitude of bees obviously circulating the garden they should have been doing the job of pollinating. But where they?

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Lesson #5 How to HAND POLLINATE

Oddly, it looks like they weren’t being pollinated. As since I started hand pollinating, I had 100% success rate with pumpkins continuing to grow past flowering stage. How to hand pollinate is easy. Take a stick, gently scrape the stamen of the male flower and rub the pollen against the female. (Or simply pluck off a male flower.)

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Lesson #6 Watch them GROW

With consecutive days being ridiculously hot over the December and January, I’m sure if I squinted a little, I could see them grow. As I didn’t know what variety I was growing initially, due to having come out of the compost, we had to hazard a guess. They looked like Kent (otherwise known as Jap) pumpkins though, which meant that approximately 100 days needed to pass until harvest time.

Lesson #7 Time to HARVEST

The pumpkin vine will start to visibly die off. The stalk around the pumpkin will harden, the colour of the pumpkin skin might change a little and if you tap the pumpkin it will sound more hollow than solid.

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Lesson #8 How to CURE and STORE

Make sure there is at about 5-10cm or so of stalk, when you cut it from the rest of the plant. You now need to cure it, which means leaving it out in a well ventaliated spot, where the skin will harden and be a natural protective layer. Gently rotating the pumpkin round a bit every few days for thorough air flow. I did pick one a little early in my eagerness to

Lesson #9 Favourite Pumpkin RECIPES

Surely the pumpkin recipe possibilities is pretty much endless? (Say that quickly 10 times!) The old favourites Pumpkin and Fetta Sausage Rolls are still, well favourites. Pumpkin dhal an easy frugal dinner, pumpkin scones and winter staple, pumpkin soup. All recipes that are simply far too hot to even contemplate at the moment (still hot, damn hot.) But the good thing is the store beautifully.

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Lesson #10 How to SAVE and STORE SEEDS

Scoop out the seeds, rinse out the gloopy bits and let them air dry really well over a couple of weeks. How you dry and store them is really important, as you don’t want any mould on them. More info on all the how’s on storing, is in a post I wrote over at Milkwood last year.

 

 

 

Loving…revolution, sunflowers and birthdays

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Loving…Sunflowers

Seeing these beauties pop up in places I’d forgotten I’d planted makes the heart happy in ways that other flowers simply don’t. While I have a soft spot for marigolds, zinnias, lavendar, nasturtium, cosmos and calendula… Sunflowers have a little extra something about them. (They also have smaller unpredictable life span, as I never quite know when a cockatoo is going to make off with one of the heads. Cheeky buggers.)

Loving…birthdays

Planning small celebrations for the smallest who is no longer so very small. She’s been birthed and has grown a whole handful of years within these blog pages. Getting to celebrate her life makes this mama’s heart sing.

Loving… Revolution

I had initially posted this on instagram in a moment of heat fuelled utter frustration which was then redirected into energy….I still stand by these words and I loved reading people’s responses to it.

Plant a tree, build a garden, seek more knowledge, share your knowledge, find your tribe where people there think you are wonderful, explore other communities, know your farmers, stop and think, dare to dream, don’t sit quietly in the corner because you were told to, stand up for things that are important, stand beside the person who dares to say, no we don’t want this. Stand beside the person who says YES we do want this. Spend a few extra minutes, hours, days, weeks, months in your life to make a difference. Of course it helps. It does it always does.

Care about things. Everyone has a voice, make it heard where it matters. Whether it be through the written word, through art, creativity, through actions, poetry, an added body in a finding momentum crowd. To be quiet or noisy can be equally effective. Ripples or waves, go good people go. We can all be game changers.

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[“Often life’s pleasures pass us by simply because we don’t take a moment to focus on them… Make a point of noticing everyday something that uplifts your spirit or tickles your heart… Stop to breathe in the joy of this moment and then tell someone about it. Share your joy and revel in it. When your joy is savoured, and then shared, it is magnified…” ROBIN GRILLE]

What are you loving at the moment?

Seasonal Eats: Mango Salsa

mango salsa || cityhippyfarmgirl

It being the height of summer here in Australia at the moment, it’s hard to imagine any day that doesn’t involve hot, or at least a variation of hot. Sure I know it will eventually, it usually does but for the moment it’s all about the heat and how to get through it all without melting into a puddle.

Swimming helps, and oooh yes indeedy it does help. Swimming is divine. Feeling the silken flow of water over your body is one of the greatest things in life. I can wax lyrical on that topic from now until eternity…however it’s not about the water today.

So how else do we cope with the regularly accompanying heat of an Australian summer? Well, I’ll start by doing as little cooking as possible. Sure I still bake sourdough. It’s a baking standard round here. But if I can stretch out the days in between putting the oven on in an already hotter than hot kitchen I will.

Filling bellies is the thing though. If I don’t want to use the oven, and am trying to steer clear of any stove top cooking as well, well that leaves a little less food options when cooking from scratch.

Mango salsa, is thankfully something that doesn’t involve either the oven or stove top. Sure you probably don’t want it accompanying every meal time…but you could certainly give it a crack!

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Mango Salsa

2 mangoes, peeled, seed taken out and flesh chopped evenly

1 small spanish or brown onion, finely diced

1 small chilli, deseeded if super fiery hot, and finely diced

1 squeeze of lime

1 grated small radish

a generous handful of roughly chopped mint

pinch of salt and black pepper

Add all ingredients together and serve with chickpea pancakes if you don’t mind using the stove top, or a bowl of corn chips, and a cold drink with as many ice cubes stuffed in as possible.

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What’s your favourite way to stay cool over summer?

The Garden that Grows

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It’s 5.30am and there is a grey stillness to the morning. Although light the sun won’t properly rise for another 15 minutes or so. The quiet hour, the garden hour. It’s summer holiday period round these parts and a different rhythm that doesn’t get found often. Mornings have been spent in two ways of late. Either by the waters edge or here, in the garden.

After a year now of creating beds, building soil profiles, planting, transplanting, weeding, growing, harvesting and eating. This small city garden has just now gone through 4 seasons.

We’ve tracked shadows during the colder months, picked 10’s of kilos of tomatoes during the warm, and frowned over countless unseen critters and their impact on our growings.

This is something that has been a long time in the making. Where small potted plants gave way for a variety of raised garden beds. There are still lessons to be learnt, corners to build up, and plants to try out, but it’s a start, and a wonderful one at that. A tiny corner to take refuge from the noise of the day, a place to grow vegetables and ideas. A pocket of edible greens in an otherwise landscape of lawns.

It’s not perfect, and there are still a multitude of lumps to work through, but it’s got sun, soil, water, and enthusiasm. With that goes a multitude of possibilities.

This is the garden that grows.

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More garden posts…

…and then the slugs moved in.

Best flowers to grow for you and your bees

Compost, sharing the love

Confessions over Chickpea Pancakes

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They’re gluten free, vegetarian and taste pretty darn good sidled up with a little sweet chilli sauce number. The thing is could I make them as well as I had at home, and successfully take them to a big group lunch time gathering?

First up I’d like to make a confession. It’s rather a ridiculous one, and I’m the first to admit that, but it’s there all the same, so here goes.

I have food making-taking anxiety.

Say what?

I hear over rolled eyes and crinkled brows. Food making-taking anxiety? What the hell does that even mean? 

Please. Grab a coffee (it’s Sunday after all) push the snoozing dog off the arm chair and get weekend comfortable while I explain.

I cook a lot. No surprises there. This blog over the past nearly 7 years has it’s foundations fairly rooted into food and cooking, we are familiar with that.

Ok, yeeesss…keep going.

So I like cooking, and I like thinking about cooking. The planning, the putting together and deliciously, the eating. However when it comes to taking food to someone else’s house, or perhaps as a gift, passing it on to someone else etc. Well, I slightly fall apart.

Sure it doesn’t stop me from doing it, and yes, I still do it allll the time, but each time my brain goes into slight freak out mode whenever someone says, (especially these words) “bring a plate”. In a 10 second spasm I’m saying in my head….but I can’t cook, what will I take, WHAT will I take!…

And exhale. Yes, I could buy something. (Actually on second thought, well no, I can’t. That’s just not going to happen, I have my own standards to live within remember.)

So the brain now does a few epileptic jumps from one food to another, trying to think of the ‘right’ one. It’s like sorting through files on files within a computer system looking for a file that might or might not exist, you’ll only know for sure, when you see it.

What usually happens now, and yes I know it’s ridiculous. I generally decide on something I’ve never made before. But why would I start on something I’m yet to trial and truly nail I hear you say? Beats me, no idea, not even the slightest. But yes, yes that’s what I often do.

Alternatively, there is a slightly different version to this tale when I’m taking something and this time I have actually made it over and over again. This time the dish-bread-meal is truly nailed to the the last detail, all within the confines of my own home. And yet when I go to take the trusty…[insert dish, bread, meal] it’s just not quite there. Not bad enough to go, oh crap, that’s horrendous, wow, never bring that again. But just enough to go, mmm, well thanks for the thought Brydie, you gave it a crack, and it was very NICE of you to think of us. (Quietly scraping food into compost, chook bucket, bin.)

Now I’m not that much of a duffer that this would happen all the time, sometimes I really can deliver on something that is quite delicious! But if I was a betting woman, I’d say the money is pretty fairly divied up and a 1:2 chance of you having to smile politely as your poor teeth have to try and sink through the hard crusty thing I’ve just offered up at your table is a good one. Combine that with the chance of me making something I’ve never made before, and might or might not be a bit of an experimental flop, I’d say there was room for a little food-making-taking-anxiety.

(I tell you, it’s totally a thing.)

chickpea pancakes

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These were delicious and super easy (when made at home.) Also a natural follow on after playing with buckwheat pancakes from a few posts previously.

chickpea pancakes

Chickpea Pancakes

2 cups besan flour (chickpea flour)

2 beaten eggs

250mls cream

125mls water

1 finely diced brown onion

3 cloves garlic finely diced

1 knob of ginger, peeled and grated

1 tsp dried cumin

2 tsp salt

Vegetable oil

In a pan add a good slug of your favourite vegetable oil, add onion, garlic and ginger. Cook until onion is translucent. In a bowl add besan flour, beaten eggs, salt and cream. Whisk together, also adding in your onion mixture.

Cook up in batches in a frying pan with a little vegetable oil.

Optional extras– jazz these up with some kimchi, spinach or anything else you have going.

Loving…eating, cosmos and ridiculous carrots

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Loving…

Knowing how to ferment food that’s good for my gut bacteria, good for my taste buds and good for my over all health.

Loving…

The cosmos flowers that have popped up all over my backyard. Patches of colour that brighten up, well, pretty much everything.

Loving…

Ridiculous looking purple carrots that remind you…to keep it real.

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What are you loving at the moment?

[“Often life’s pleasures pass us by simply because we don’t take a moment to focus on them… Make a point of noticing everyday something that uplifts your spirit or tickles your heart… Stop to breathe in the joy of this moment and then tell someone about it. Share your joy and revel in it. When your joy is savoured, and then shared, it is magnified…” ROBIN GRILLE]

 

Hello Mulberry Pie

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When a friend brings mulberries from their laden tree, only delicious things can come of it. Straight into the freezer they went, which is where all good juicy mulberry ideas go to fortify themselves.

Mulberry kombucha, mulberry jam, mulberry cake, mulberry pie… All finger staining contenders that need just a little prompt to be lured out.

So when your ten year old gets home from having had appendicitis, followed by his appendix removed, well that seems like a good enough reason as any.

Goodbye appendix, and hello mulberry pie.

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Mulberry Pie

150 cold cubed butter

50g caster sugar

1 egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla

grated rind of a lemon

300g plain flour

1 tbls cold water

2 dessert spoons extra raw sugar

Pulse butter, sugar, vanilla, egg yolk, and plain flour in a blender until it looks like bread crumbs. Turn pastry crumbs out to a clean lightly floured bench top, add cold water and knead mixture until it forms a smooth dough. (Don’t over work it.)

Roll pastry roughly between two sheets of baking paper, and let it rest in the fridge for about half an hour. Getting it out a little further, until about .5cm (or a little thicker if you like it like that).

Grease your pie dish with a little butter, carefully laying down pastry. Add fresh mulberries, and sprinkle a couple of dessert spoons of extra raw sugar over the top.

Add extra pastry pieces to decorate if you feel like it and bake at 180C for approximately 40-45mins or until light golden.

Eat with enthusiasm.

Kanelbullar…or how to twist Cinnamon Buns

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My children grow like weeds.

Close your eyes briefly overnight and suddenly pants are looking a little short. Dresses have become tops and shoes look a little painful.

I accept this as what children do. However it still befuddles me as to how they can constantly be so damn hungry.

From the time of grey morning light, where eyes are yet to be prised open. I often wake to small voices saying, Mama….I’m huuuungry. This pattern continues throughout the day, right up until the dark night, where it should be a time of whispered goodnights, and I love you. Not replaced, which is lovely. Just with a little addition.

Goodnight Mama….I love you….I’m a bit hungry.

And so it goes. With us being smack bang in the middle of school holidays, those hungry choruses are equally unified, amplified, and questionably justified. I’m sure I just fed you!

So with meal times at the moment having alarming frequencies, and it nearly being the 4th of October (For new readers or regular readers who need a reminder, this means it’s Cinnamon Bun Day coming up- thank you my Nordic thinkers!) I thought it might be time to finally do something about the requests I get on how to do these twisty buns.

Are they authentically Nordic? As an Australian who is yet to set foot on any Nordic soil (this is regretful of my part) I actually don’t know.

But.

They work. They are pretty tasty, and happily, they fill up those ravenous children of mine, (albeit briefly.)

First up. The recipe can be found here from last year.

Secondly, if you don’t play with sourdough, try 2 tsp of dried yeast to replace the 1.

Thirdly, I’ve played a few times with different twists over the years. Tucking under with the end into the middle, tucking over with the middle, simple swirls or tucking the twist across the dough all seem to work fine.

Lastly, pearled sugar is what generally goes on top which can be tricky to get at times. It comes in different forms but makes it look a bit fancier, (on some here, I’ve also used Dutch coloured sugar aniseed.)

(Extra special thanks to my 10 year old camera helper.)

Best (yet) Buckwheat Pancakes

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When a gluten free diet was suggested by my well loved professional holistic caregiver, there might have been a slight whimper on my part.

Gluten, there’s no denying it. It’s delicious.

Not the actual glutenous fibres themselves but the food in which that gluten is often encased. Anyone who has been a long time reader of this blog might have subtly noticed I bake a fair chunk of the time. Mostly, because I like to keep costs down, like to feed my ravenous family with great food, and I also want to know what’s going in all those breakfasts, lunches, dinner’s, morning teas, afternoon teas, and snacks.

All sounds very wholesome and love fuelled right? Well it’s also fairly gluten based when it comes to my baking, (even if a fair chunk of it is wholemeal spelt flour based.)

So, a gluten free diet for me eh?

Well that would wipe out the two thick slices of delicious homemade sourdough in the morning then wouldn’t it?

It would probably leave out the healthy backyard vegetable salad with a tasty little pangritata on top.

It would also probably wipe out the custard tart eaten with my equally gluten loving friend with a side order of books, photography and belly laughing chitchat.

Dinner would look a little less like orechiette alle broccoli and more like…well broccoli.

But that was fine. It was just a trial to see where things were at, to see what was what and well, why was why? Something like that anyway. In a nutshell, gluten was off the menu for the next three ish weeks.

Now I knew with any changes in dietary requirements the key to success was preparation.

P.R.E.P.A.R.A.T.I.O.N.

After a gluten fuelled “see you in a bit” honorary party the night before I started, the first day arrives and I happily head to the kitchen ready to embark on all things un-glutenous. It’s Sunday which means pancakes round these parts, and the kids laid the table out in readiness. But me, what about me? What was a poor gluten-free woman to do when it’s Pancake Sunday? Wholemeal Spelt pancakes weren’t going to cut it, and it seems my very first meal was a fail first up.

I hadn’t prepared a damn thing…and I was hungry. Step two in successful dietary changes is don’t let yourself get too hungry (especially on the first day!) as it will be easy to slip into the habits of old.

I admitted defeat. Enjoyed 5 gluten filled pancakes and declared I would start at lunch.

Now what I should have done and certainly did in subsequent meals was swap the spelt flour for buckwheat.

Buckwheat Pancakes, I’ve made these countless times over the last few weeks with varying degrees of success. Some with rice flour in there as well, some with egg whites, some with ricotta, but the best and most dependable seem to be a simple ratio of egg, flour and milk. It’s nothing crazy but for my own reference I’m putting these up, best (yet) Buckwheat Pancakes.

(Also for all future references, buckwheat pancakes and lemon curd is an entirely acceptable trade off for gluten.)

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Buckwheat Pancakes

25g melted butter

1 beaten egg

1 cup buckwheat flour

1/4 tsp bicarbonate soda

1 cup milk

Whisk all ingredients together and cook in pan. Stack ’em high and eat with enthusiasm.

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growing buckwheat

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…and then the slugs moved in

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It wasn’t the first time I’d had run ins with slugs, but it was the first time I had ever grown anything in this much abundance. Not a nominal amount that had been the case when it was a potted garden in the big smoke with 1-2 hours of sunlight. No here, I had much more sunlight and things (after a few trial and errors) were actually growing.

I proudly showed several heads of lettuces off on instagram, and really it had all be pretty darn exciting watching things grow and then following that up by eating them. We even toyed with the idea of there nearly being enough to cancel our vegetable box delivery. Options like that were suddenly no longer sounding completely unachievable.

And then the slugs moved in.

One evening, dusk was snaking it’s way in and I had ventured out to the compost. Suddenly I’m stopped in my tracks by a multitude of glistening bodies, slimebagging their way along my prize winning* vegetables. Cue stampede music and old school horror music piano pieces. Those little bastards? They were everywhere.

I start picking them off. I keep picking them off. I get a container, and still keep picking them off.

Everywhere.

They are bloody everywhere. At this rate I won’t have a vegetable in sight by the end of the week. I traipse inside, slip my shoes off as they have become a little slidey from all the slug guts and declare war on the slime bags. Vowing words of action the very next day.

Except I didn’t.

I actually forgot the next day.

So when I hear a concerned voice coming in from the back door, (after a visit to the compost again) saying “…there’s a lot of slugs out there tonight!”. I write a post-it-note with a big black marker and stick it on my forehead for first thing tomorrow. Must sort that slug issue out.

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So what are your options when you have a plague of slugs stampeding across your carefully tendered urban permaculture patch?

Eggshells… you are supposed to keep them dry and the sheer amount I would need to try to make this work didn’t seem workable.

Beer traps…I have done this, but it’s simply not enough. I’d have to have a beer filled moat for this to be effective and with a wandering whippet (whom I suspect would be a bit of a light weight drinker) it’s not really a long term option either.

Ducks… I like the idea, actually I love the idea! But…I’m not there yet, and again, not sure about the whippet.

Grow extra’s… I actually do have enough lettuce to share (regrettably) with my slimebag friends, however they’ve taken more than their share and are simply not playing fair.

Slug and snail bait… nah, not going to happen.

Copper…I’d read that I could strip wires and use the copper parts as a barrier method to stop them. I didn’t have any wires, and didn’t have the time before my vegetables are reduced to stubs to go seek some to strip. A quick trip to the hardware store get’s me back home with 8 metres of copper tape. I thought about taping the beds up Mission Impossible laser style scene, but decided that’s probably overkill at this stage considering I don’t even know if these things will work. I go with the disco look instead and line the edges. Not enough of the edges but if it works**, I’ll get more and disco everywhere the slimebags lurk.

So did it work?

First night, I can’t see any slugs in the garden that had been previously looking like Bondi Beach in the middle of summer. I had wrapped the tape around all the edges. The garden beds where I had only done a portion of the tape, the bodies once again glistened in the light. So at a quick look, I’d say yes, yes it did work where I had placed the tape all the way round.

The following day was all day slug weather, the slimebags didn’t even have to wait until dusk had set, as it was so wet and bleak out there they could just munch on down, breakfast, lunch and dinner. My problem was I hadn’t finished the taping and couldn’t do it again until the garden bed edges were dry so it would adhere properly.

Once again, I go inside mumbling war cries and take off slippery shoes from slug guts.

Will the copper tape keep the suckers at bay? Not sure, to be continued folks…

In the mean time What are some of your tried and true methods for slug control? Or something you’ve tried and it didn’t work?

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*Yes, I know I haven’t actually won any awards.