Lessons in Pumpkins- 10 top tips on growing and storing

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.

pumpkin-02-cityhippyfarmgirl

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.

pumpkins-cityhippyfarmgirl

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.)

pumpkin-01-cityhippyfarmgirl

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.

pumpkins-cityhippyfarmgirl

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.

pumpkin-seed-cityhippyfarmgirl

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.

 

 

 

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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!

mango-salsa-recipe-cityhippyfarmgirl

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?

Banana Smoothie Ice Cream

Banana Smoothie Ice Cream || cityhippyfarmgirl
 This isn’t rocket science here. It may not even be life changing…

but it might just be helpful!

What to do- Make your every day banana smoothie as you normally would (go on, add in an extra banana for good measure.) Now pop it in the freezer and leave it for a little. For ease of eating, don’t wait until it’s frozen through.

Guaranteed to make small people happy on hot summer days, and big people rather content.

To make this, I whack in…

4 bananas

1 tsp vanilla

some milk

Whizz it all up and into the freezer. Drizzle on some honey just before eating and spoon out as you would regular ice cream. Just the thing for cooling off on a hot day.

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Do you have any regular foods you tweak for extra hot days?

 

pride of the pickle

fermented pickle- cityhippyfarmgirl

It worked! It really worked!!

It’s not every day that you excitedly talk pickles with your landlord’s handy man. But I did, and here I was again, excitedly telling him over the phone that the very same pickles we had been scrutinising several days earlier had indeed worked, and I was just a little bit excited.

I had made sauerkraut before, and that was certainly easy enough, (although the last batch did have to tossed out due to a truly unimaginable miasma settling in my kitchen-due to it being far too hot to be fermenting sauerkraut. Bless my birkinstocks, and oh my goodness…it stank. It really did.)

So with the sauerkraut in mind, I was a little nervous embarking on the pickles. Consulting the fermentation bible though and it seemed hot weather was still ok to work with. I had some wonky farmers market cucumbers that seemed perfect for pickling. So lets give this pickle thing a crack.

pickles- cityhippyfarmgirl

Each day I would study the jar, looking for changes. On the third day I found them. It started going a little cloudy, then on the fourth there was a scum on the top. I wasn’t sure, I really wasn’t. I’d just seen the week before, a 20cm high mould growth from the top of someones pickles. Was this the beginning of a similar path??

fermenting pickles- cityhippyfarmgirl

surface mould on the fermenting pickles- small ceramic dish to weigh the pickles down and keep submerged.

Then the handy man came over. After tending my minor fixing-things, talk turned to the mouldy scum pickle concoction on my bench top. They’re fine, he assured me, sunlight, skim the scum off and they are nearly ready due to the change of colour. Turns out my handy man’s mother had decades under her belt of making pickles, just like the method I was trying to replicate. Luck indeed, I had in my kitchen, years of pickle knowledge; albeit once removed, (but that was certainly good enough for me.)

Now I was curious, really curious.

Another two days went by and then I was ready. Mouldy scum scooped off (since it had appeared I had done it every 12 hours) and a pickle gently rinsed.

I sniffed, smelt like pickle.

I admired, looked like pickle.

I nibbled the end…

pickle- cityhippyfarmgirl

It tasted like pickle!

Douse me in cheese and roll me in a sandwich. Yes indeed, I had myself a pickle! Well pickles. I had a whole bunch of these glorious naturally fermented pickles and I was just a little bit excited.

Which is why several hours later, when I had to make a phone call about all things handyman related I couldn’t help but blurt out over the phone…

It worked! It really worked!

theartoffermentaion || cityhippyfarmgirl

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Last year I tasted a three dollar jar of pickles from Germany. Aside from the massive food miles for such a simple jar of food I also got a migraine type headache within half an hour of eating one of the pickles. I did it twice more before ditching them and vowing never again, not even in a moment of pickle weakness.

Eating anything naturally fermented is filled with wonderful probiotics. If you would like to know more about the awesome world of fermentation I highly reccommend this book and if you are super duper quick (and in Australia) you get to hear and learn from the man himself.

the colourful season

radishes

beetrootrosemary chilli

So many good things are in season at the moment-summer really is the season of colourful plenty.

Delivered vegetable boxes are colourful and full of things that challenge my culinary skills, (yes, that still includes beetroot…)

My window boxes are cheery, and garden growings include an abundance of chilli this year. My teeny tiny potted garden is happy to grow chilli, and I’m happy that it’s happy to do that! The rosemary is also happy, which really does make a difference to a pan of roasting potatoes. (Also makes a well scented haven for any critters that decide to take up residence.)

Tomatoes, look I still get ambitious but they really don’t work for me in pots. Needs a whole lot more sun than I can offer them and when they finally do decide to give it a crack, some overly confident grub usually marches in at the crucial moment.

Some other seasonal goodies to look out for at this time

* plums, peaches, passionfruit

* broccoli, basil, beans

*potatoes, peas and onions

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Where ever you are, what are you enjoying this season?

flowers