Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Pumpkin Patch Success

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

A couple of weeks ago our pumpkin season finished here in South Eastern Australia.  The three wheelbarrow loads of vines are now composting away nicely, and the garden looks much tidier.

Did I have much success I hear you ask?  I am proud to announce that this has been my best pumpkin growing year ever!  I have been trying to grow this vegetable for at least three seasons now, with very limited success.  Here is a bit of history.

Year one, I planted butternuts (squash) in a large pot and a fair bit of vine and lots of flowers, but it kept on drying out, so therefore no pumpkins.

Year two, butternuts again, and in a small garden bed.  For my hard work I received two smallish butternuts that were very tasty, but there were just not enough of them.

Year three. Success!

And this harvest was just the begining!  In the photo are Australian Butter, Golden Nugget and Queensland Blue pumpkins.

These two butternuts decided to grow from the compost that I spread in the spring.  Who am I to turn down a gift from nature?

Also, just before I pulled all of the vines, I found these four pumpkins lurking in the patch.  All up I harvested 13 pumpkins for winter.

I believe my success was due to a few factors.  I selected an area where the plants could stretch their legs, and prepared the bed with lots of organic manure and compost.  I also ensured that each plant had more than enough water and that the bed was well drained.  I set up drip irrigation to water them twice a week as allowed by water restrictions, and I ran a hose from our washing machine and watered with grey water from just about every wash (I use low sodium and low phosphate laundry powder).  When each plant got about 5 metres long, I pinched off the growing tips so that side shoots would develop female flowers.  I then let the bees do their thing, and when I notice that they were not around, I tried my hand at pollination with some success.

With good soil preparation and lots of water, they grew like crazy.  Here is a photo of the vines when they were about 2 metres long.  Note the hose from the washing machine.

Then again at 4 metres.  It was starting to take over the entire garden, which was okay because there was plenty of room for it to grow.

So what will I do with all these pumpkins?  So far we have roasted two of them for Sunday dinners, and also roasted the seeds as snacks.

We have also made pumpkin soup.  Here is my favourite recipe that I use all the time.  It requires no cream, however the onions give it a creamy consistency.

Golden Butternut Pumpkin Soup
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium onions, chopped
1 small stalk celery, chopped
750g Butternut pumpkin, peeled and cubed
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
half teaspoon dried oregano or 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh
2 bay leaves
quarter teaspoon black pepper
In a large saucepan, melt the butter in the oil so the butter does not burn over a moderate heat. Add the onion, garlic and celery; cook, uncovered, until the onion browns a little and is soft - about 5 minutes.
Add the pumpkin, stock, oregano, bay leaves and pepper, stir and gently bring to the boil. Adjust the heat so that the mixture bubbles gently; cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Check to see if the pumpkin is tender when pierced with a fork. Remove and discard the bay leaves and let the soup cool for 5 minutes.
Blend the soup with a hand-blender in the pot, or transfer to a blender in a few batches. Careful as it is still very hot. When smooth, return to the pot and reheat gently for about 5 minutes. Do not boil and it will burn on the bottom of the pan. Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty bread. Yum.