‘All is safely gathered in’Posted By: rocket veg Category: Growing Veg, Seasonal Tips
Autumn is definitely in the air. Colder mornings and chilly evenings have arrived as the temperature dips and hours of daylight reduce. On the allotment it’s time to harvest all those wonderful things which have been growing steadily during the warm summer months: pumpkins, squash and borlotti beans – their leaves withered and turning a crispy brown – and potatoes of course.
Pumpkins and squash
This is always a satisfying job, cutting the thick stems and carrying the heavy fruits to a safe place where the skins can harden off and protect the wonderful flesh over the coming months. Last year, I made the mistake of leaving my pumpkins on the sunny top of a rainwater tank, only to find that rats had found them and had a good nibble, so this year, I’ve put my precious fruits home to cure in the conservatory.
My favourite varieties in 2019: ‘Crown Prince’, bright orange flesh lurking under the green skin; ‘Turk’s Turban’, the name giving a clue as to its appearance; ‘Red Kuri’ with its gnarled, flame-coloured skin; and ‘Sweet Dumplings’, small, pale beasties with green stripes. I’ve also grown some magnificent ‘Trombonchino’ which have pulled the trellis down under their weight – the longest a magnificent 1.15m! Once harvested and placed together they make a colourful sight. One of the fun things about growing squash and pumpkins is sharing ideas with others, hints and tips about growing conditions and which varieties are good to eat. When the time comes to plant, you may find others with a few plants to give away or swap.
I’ve also lifted my main crop potatoes – ‘Picasso’ this year, but I’ve not had the best of yields and a number of the spuds have small, tell-tale holes in them, a sign of slug damage. Main crop potatoes are intended for keeping, as long as you first remove the worst of the soil (a gloved hand does the trick), then leave them to dry before storing them in a paper sack.
Food for colder days…
Crops harvested in early autumn are the perfect comfort food for a cold winter’s day – squash and pumpkins cut into chunks and roasted and then enjoyed as part of a meal or blitzed and turned into delicious soup. Borlotti beans are a wonderful addition to casseroles, with or without meat. My favourite way of cooking smaller varieties of pumpkin (‘Jack be Little’ is perfect for this) is simply to cut off the top, scoop out the seeds using a desert spoon and fill the cavity with a generous lump of butter, a squeeze of garlic, grated cheese (Gruyere is a joy!) and lots of sea salt flakes and pepper. Pop the top back on and roast for an hour or so before tucking with a spoon and chunks of bread to soak up the juices.