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.

 

 

 

Pumpkin goodness- Know Your Basics

pumpkin: know your basics || cityhippyfarmgirl

Although you can buy pumpkin for a fair chunk of the year here in Australia. Now is when you will be seeing rather a lot of it. Autumn and early winter is a great time for the humble pumpkin. It’s a cheap and easy basic, that really does pay to know a few different ways in which to cook it. Team it up with the forever versatile fetta and you are away. Meal times never looked so simple.

 

Now if you are lucky enough to grow your own pumpkins, they can be stored for several months in a cool dark airy spot, especially so if they have been cured beforehand. This can be done by leaving them out in the sun for a while first, for the skin to harden and the stalk to dry out.

Then there is the eating. I really like using pumpkin as it’s cheap, and can be turned into a whole list of easy dinner time meals… Or snacks… Or desserts. Actually the humble pumpkin is rather impressive with its array of pumpkiny meal options.

KNOW YOUR BASICS: Find a couple of basic ingredients and really get to know them, what they can do, what they taste well with and most importantly, how on earth to cook them.

First up, roasted. This can be done either with skins on or off depending on your time, strength and taste buds. I normally peel them, as they are generally going into a soup, dhal or bread kind of dish.

Now once you’ve peeled, chopped and roasted you are left with the scooped out, fleshy, stringy and seedy bits. Separate all the seeds and leave them in a bowl to soak over night. The next morning dry them off and spread them out in a frying pan gently roast- watch them, they POP!

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Whether you are roasting, steaming, eating cold, eating hot, the pumpkin is a great one to be bought locally, seasonally, frugally, and importantly tastely, (surely that can be a word?)

What’s your favourite way to serve pumpkin?

A few more ideas on what to do with your wonderful pumpkin

Make a Pumpkin and Fetta Tart

Pumpkin and Fetta salad with chickpeas was delicious

Pumpkin and Fetta sausage rolls always a winner

Pumpkin and Fetta foccacia

Pumpkin Spiced Cake– everyone loves cake, especially pudding kinda cake

Pumpkin and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup, cool nights, hot dinners

Roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

Indian Spiced Pumpkin Scones– easy for lunch or afternoon tea

Pumpkin pie

Pumpkin Dhal- frugal and seasonal cooking

and my go to Thai Style Pumpkin Soup

pumpkin: know your basics || cityhippyfarmgirl

Pumpkin Spiced Cake or when to break the rules

spiced pumpkin cake || cityhippyfarmgirl

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

I knew there was something…but really couldn’t quite gather enough thought process to find out what. And yet slowly whatever it was, it built up. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t draw. I couldn’t take any pictures and I sure as eggs couldn’t think what on earth it was that was slightly sitting out of alignment.

So I stopped. Stopped trying to put my finger on it and closed the lap top. Said bugger the homework. Put another jacket on us all and headed out. The rules of the afternoon, the time constraints, the blah, blah, blah. Yep, today they didn’t count, as today….there would be no rules.

You know why kids can play so beautifully, for so long, so uninhibited? Because their rules are different, and they don’t care particularly if they break them. If the row of animals isn’t put away before going to bed, life turns out, does continue on. If homework isn’t done on a one off Wednesday, doing double the next day is actually ok because the afternoon before, oh it was rather awesome.

So why was it, that it wasn’t until I had stopped, did I realise it was all the rules that were choking me and leaving me on edge? I have no idea. Really absolutely none. But on the upside I know how good it felt when we broke all the rules that afternoon in late winter and I have every intention of doing it again soon.

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Now this is a quite a moist, dense cake, that for me looked like a cake, but tasted like a pie, it kind of broke all the cake rules right there.

Looks like a cake, but tastes like a pie… this was a fine thing to realise indeed.

 spiced pumpkin cake recipe || cityhippyfarmgirl

Pumpkin Spiced Cake

150g softened butter

150g brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp cardamom

zest of a lemon

2 beaten eggs

2 tbls molasses

225g self raising flour

75g wholemeal spelt flour

1 1/2 cups cooked and mashed pumpkin (use less if you don’t like a moist cake)

Cream butter, sugar and spices together, add lemon zest, beaten eggs and molasses. Mix through pumpkin and then fold through flours. Pour mixture into a greased and lined loaf tin and bake for approximately one hour at 180C, (or until a skewer comes out clean.)

Pumpkin and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup- ELC #6

pumpkin and jerusalem artichoke soup || cityhippyfarmgirlOn a weekend out of the city recently, there was talk of visiting a local farmers market. I quite like talk like that, even if I’m the one who initiates the talk (ahem).

So to market we went. Buying up on some lovely locally grown organic vegetables, a succulent for $2, and a chopping board. Now I’d been on the look out for a little board quite awhile now. Time was passing, calendar pages were changing their years and still, I hadn’t found quite the ‘right’ board. I knew they were easy enough to make, but I just didn’t have access to any decent wood.

Then I came across ‘The Man at the Markets’, a man who who knew his chopping boards, and every tiny piece of the different woods behind them. After a general chit chat about the weather and the local area, we started talking about the boards he had for sale. Giving each one a run down on the type of wood it was and how to look after them, and what I was going to do with it.

It was this little one that caught my eye though, asking him about it, it turns out it was from an old skirting board from an equally old house just a short distance away from the markets. You can still see the nail holes if you look closely.

It seems I had found my board. It was locally made, recycled, looked good and seemed to fit pretty well with the pumpkin soup I had planned to serve with it. (What type of wood it is, I’m embarrassed to say I have no idea. The man did tell me, but it seems I forgot as soon as I stepped out of the market area….lovely wood I think it’s called now.)

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Where is my food coming from?

Pumpkin- Red Bank, Eurobodalla

Jerusalem Artichoke- (Crave Natural, Apple Tree Flat)

Creme Fraiche- (Pepe Saya, Sydney)

 Interested in taking the challenge?

Just how local is local? Well this depends entirely on you. Only you know how you and your family eat. Raise the bar just a little from what you already do. If making sure the majority of your meal includes solely food produced in your country, than make that your challenge. If you want to make it a little trickier, go for produced in the same state…trickier still within 160km.

My aim is to really know where my food is coming from for at least one meal a month, (where I will be posting here in the last week of the month).

Eat Local Challenge #5

Eat Local Challenge #4

Eat Local Challenge #3

Eat Local Challenge #2

Eat Local Challenge #1

eat local challenge || cityhippyfarmgirl

Indian Spiced Pumpkin Scones- Frugal Friday

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With cooler weather finally arrived, it’s quite nice to have the oven on again for longer periods. No sweltering in the kitchen, followed by desperate throwing open of windows to catch a passing breeze. Instead, an inviting warm cosiness, that encourages lingering within the kitchen and regular taste testing.

Team that kitchen warmth up, with the last of the afternoon sun and a hungry belly- and scones it is. Not just any scones though. Savoury scones, that speak of autumn colours and warming spices.

Just the thing to go with a chunky soup.

cityhippyfarmgirl

Indian Spiced Pumpkin Scones

50g softened butter

1 cup mashed local pumpkin

1 tsp dried coriander

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp tumuric

1/2 tsp cardamom

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2- 3 cups s/r flour*

(*depends on the water content of your pumpkin)

Cream butter and spices together. Whisk in all other ingredients except the flour. Fold in flour with a knife. Turn out on to a floured surface and lightly knead, just until the ingredients come together. Make a roundish shape circle with the dough, and roughly divide. Pop on to a baking tray and bake at 210C for about 20 minutes.

Cheap, easy, and seasonal.

In my kitchen

In my kitchen sat my absolute favourite pie in whole wide universe…. lemon meringue. It had been a while since I had made it and Monkey Boy asked ever so nicely if I would. I didn’t want to disappoint, so made it, gave him a small slice, and packed him off to bed. This left me to admire a rather large slice of my own. Lemon meringue pie is one of those lick the bowl when your done kind of moments. Yep, it really is.

And I would have been crazy not to make one, as I had these fat gifted backyard lemons sitting on my kitchen table waiting to be loved.

A trial of a Pear and Ginger Slice. Amazingly enough I actually followed a recipe this time. It wasn’t bad, I would tweak it a little to cater more to my taste buds. But definitely not bad.

The last of my dad’s pumpkins. The orange of the flesh in these pumpkins has been amazing. Nothing like a super market bought one what so ever. I’m still thinking about my pumpkiny options.

My new mixer love arrived. Oh my sweet, sweet goodness how I love it! (Very, very nerdy post to come soon.)

In my kitchen, there has been quite a lot of my staple salad. I very rarely tire of eating kale… which is lucky, as there is quite a bit around at the moment.

and lastly, in my kitchen sits two new pans. I’m not usually one to buy new kitchen gadgets just for the sake of it, (despite desperately needing a new cooking pot- as I had burnt the crap out of one of my usuals.) Mr Chocolate wanted these, and if it had just been me, there is no way I would have got them. Thankfully I did though, as I am hooked. Cooked on low to medium, ceramic coating, no oil used, heats up really quickly, (and makes a perfect pancake!)

What’s been happening in your kitchen?

linking up with the ever lovely Celia@Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

the pumpkin time had arrived

pumpkin dhal

The pumpkin had been sitting there, waiting patiently on the kitchen table for weeks.

Days went by, and still nothing. Evening meals came and went on by, still no pumpkin passed our lips. I was waiting for the right moment, the right time to cut in to that deep orange flesh. It had been grown and given with thought and love. I wanted to eat it in the same way.

The time was right, the knife was sharp, our bellies were hungry.

The pumpkin time had arrived.

Pumpkin Scones

25g softened butter

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup mashed pumpkin

1 beaten egg

grated rind of half a lemon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

pinch of salt

3 cups sifted s/r flour

Cream butter and sugar together. Whisk in all other ingredients except the flour. Fold in flour with a knife. Turn out on to a floured surface and lightly knead, just until the ingredients come together. Cut out with a floured upturned glass. Pop on to a baking tray and bake at 210C for about 20 minutes.

seasonal cooking for June

The seasons have changed and along with it so has what comes out of the kitchen.

I like that. Seasonal menus and changing what goes on our plate according to availability and the weather outside.

Orange and Coconut Cake, an easy one to make up a head of time. Keeps well, using some of the delicious new season oranges about. Try to find some organic oranges, as they shouldn’t be waxed. You don’t particularly want zest of wax in your cake do you?

I was lucky enough to get a lovely load of my dad’s backyard citrus.

Ribollita adapted from this Jamie Oliver recipe. A really easy meal based on vegetables on hand and using up stale bread. Frugal, seasonal, healthy, local produce and tasty. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Will the kids eat it? If you have miracle children they might, mine wouldn’t touch it.

So what else is looking tasty round these parts in June?

mandarins…. eaten by the bucket load at the moment. Easy snack.

radish… finally sliced in salads

pumpkin… thai pumpkin soup with a swirl of coconut cream.

cauliflower… I’m thinking this risotto, with extra chillies please.

kale… raw or cooked green goodness. SUPER food.

leek… base for a hearty soup or sitting in the bottom of a quiche.

mushrooms… cooked up in some olive oil with a side of polenta. Yum!

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What seasonal cooking are you doing?