Growing, storing and Using Pumpkins

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Pumpkins would have to be one of the cheapest and easiest vegetable we grow, though they do spread out taking up alot of room they are great for those areas not alot else can be grown in. This past Spring we planted them on a pile of compost created over winter and on top of an area of lawn that allowed for plenty of growth. Pumpkin scraps and seeds are just thrown on top as we discard them, they don’t really need starting in pots and alot of TLC babying them along.

The only problem we ever experience with them may be powdery mildew which is (usually) easily fixed with milk sprays. Homegrown pumpkin is so much better than store bought, they are hardy both in growing and storage. We harvest after the plants have died off and we leave most of them to get a couple of good frosts…this gives a deep dark orange flesh and a rich, sweet flavour. Pumpkins should be harvested with a two cm stem on the fruit and stored, not touching each other, in a cool and dark airy place. They generally last up to 9 months but do need to be checked.

This week I have been going through our stored pumpkins and removing any that are showing signs of deterioration. Offending areas can be cut out and the rest used. Any excess can be just cut and frozen raw in bags. They won’t lose flavour but the texture is affected, they break down quicker on cooking.

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I also cook pumpkin in salted water and mash it, freezing the puree in 1 cup quantities to use for baking. I also tend to make vegetarian lasagne, or a mixture of beef and vegetable, when I have the pumpkin already cooked and on hand to use.

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In New Zealand pumpkin is used alot as a vegetable, eaten either roasted, boiled or mashed. My son’s new wife is from Indiana, USA, and she was surprised by this, telling me her family have bought pumpkins to hollow out for Halloween but the flesh has always been thrown away !! We don’t really celebrate Halloween here but pumpkin is a common fresh vegetable in meals. Canned pumpkin has never made the shelves in supermarkets here (as far as I know).

I have tried roasting pumpkin seeds a few times but have never got them quite right, I don’t know that I will try again. Pumpkin flowers, like zucchini, are delicious fried in batter and both the vegetable and the flower can end up on a platter of Beer Battered Tempura Vegetables.

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We also use pumpkin, often leftover roasted, in vegetable quiches. Our absolute favourite though is this Pumpkin and Silverbeet Quiche

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Though Roger isn’t much of a soup eater I could live on it. Pumpkin soup with a little bacon, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato and Roast Pumpkin and Carrot soups are all very yummy but my favourite is the Spicy Pumpkin and Lentil.

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Pumpkin and Vegetable Bake (a terrible photo I have forgotten to sort!) and variations on Pumpkin Chickpea Patties are both good!! We also enjoy Roast pumpkin Hummus.

A recipe for Pumpkin Walnut and Raisin Bread here

Two things I still have not tried is the famous pumpkin pie and these yummy looking pumpkin pancakes at the wonderful Chocolate Covered Katie site.

Pumpkin, Walnut and Raisin Loaf

I just ended a three month baking hiatus and this was a yummy way to end it 🙂 I will put the original site I got the recipe from but I did change it just a little, increasing the amount of butter, walnuts, raisins and spice and I made the method easier. Served hot with butter it’s very delicious, on day 3 it still has a nice and moist texture.

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4 oz (100 g) butter

1 1/3 cups sugar

2 eggs,

1/4 cup water

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 2/3 cup flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/3 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 cup walnuts

3/4 cup raisins or sultanas

Preheat oven to 350 (180) deg and prepare 1 large or 2 small loaf pans.

Soften butter and cream with sugar. Add eggs and beat, add pumpkin puree and water and beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients – the flour, spices, salt, baking powder and soda. Fold in the walnuts and raisins, pour into tins and bake a large one 55 – 60 minutes, smaller ones around 35 – 40 minutes.

The original recipe was found at About.com – submitted by Diana Rattray

 

 

 

The First Week of Autumn

I don’t know what happened to summer this year, it’s been cooler than usual, cloudier than usual and has gone in a blur . The firewood has started coming, the garden is dying off in a mess of wilting foliage. The only good thing about autumn is the fig, pumpkin and feijoa harvests, smiling sunflowers…then it’s just one big clean up and the wintering down off most of it. 

The garden:

Roger is grinning from ear to ear today….we finally got his bees. We have been waiting for a year or so for a hive to come up cheaply and it did. They aren’t cheap, but this was 1/2 the price we usually see them for. The man he bought them from this morning assured us there would be 30 kg of honey from this box, additionally there would be beeswax and the pollination of vegetable plants and fruit trees. We then had to buy a book on keeping bees which was not cheap either…..I think the first new book I have bought in decades.

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Mittens early morning routine of watching the chooks being fed. It’s a good thing they are behind a huge fence I think.Image

The leeks are growing well, the zucchini are dying off and behind them a mass of pumpkins and ripening wine grapes.

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A pumpkin invasion.Image

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The tomatoes are nearing the end. With such a cool summer we didn’t get nearly as many as I had hoped for despite planting extra plants. We got heaps but not enough for the year, I will be buying some!

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Silverbeet (Chard) self seeds everywhere. We have masses of it, we eat alot of it and the chooks love it.

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Beans and beetroot still growing but not much longer for the beans.Image

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The herbs are nearing the end for many, the big herb garden has been covered with peastraw to build up the soil and keep weeds down over winter. The oregano flowering.Image

In the glasshouse we have peppers and chillis just fruiting/ripening and one enormous tomato plant that doesn’t have alot of fuit, is keeping sun off the other plants but Roger is very proud of it:)

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In November we decided to journal all our harvesting to see how much we could grow. So far, in three months it is up to nearly 300 kg (2.2 lbs to kg I think?) of fruit, vegetables and berries. There is still alot to come. This from our garden which is probably 1/8 acre. 

The kitchen:

I have been making tomato sauces, both barbecue sauce and a ketchup. We love both of these recipes. I save my olive oil bottles for tomato sauce, I have done 4 litres, maybe another 4 will do.

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And started some Blackberry Liqueur.

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And it’s soup season, another thing to be thankful to autumn for 🙂 

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Home:

These are some of the guys from Vanuatu, they came last night for farewell drinks…all rather shy of the camera 🙂 These guys come over to work in the vineyards and we know them well now. This is the summer crew. We were talking last night about their lives…they either have family land or buy a small area for very little, build their houses from wood they chop down, live in small villages and their food is practically free. They grow their own vegetables, eat mostly seafood they catch and occasional chickens (usually for ceremonial meals) and their fruit and coconuts are picked freely from the thousands of trees that grow naturally. That’s their diet and for all our food groups and daily requirement lists….these guys are truly fit and healthy. They speak between 3 and 4 languages and are honest, hardworking, proud but humble people. Vanuatuans have twice been voted the world’s happiest in the world. I just thought I would add all this after the other day’s grumpy post about dissatisfaction 🙂 🙂

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Spicy Pumpkin, Spinach and Lentil Soup

A few months ago I posted a recipe for Moroccon Lamb Soup, I have adapted this recipe for a vegetarian one. This has pumpkin, potato, spinach, lentils, chickpeas and is flavoured with turmeric, paprika and ginger. The results? Perfect!

Chock full of nutrients, this can be eaten as a stoup (how I like it) or more water added for a more soupy texture. This made a large quantity to enable freezing of some but could easily be halved.

500 g pumpkin, chopped

2 brown onions, chopped

2 carrots, diced

2 potatoes, cubed

good bunch of baby spinach…2 – 3 cups

5 cloves garlic

1 can tomatoes including juice, or fresh

400 g tin chickpeas, or cooked

1 cup brown lentils

Vegetable stock of choice, 10 – 12 cups water

2 tsp each paprika and turmeric

1 1/2 tsp each black pepper and ginger

Salt to taste – 11/2 – 2 tspns

Pour a little olive oil in the base of very large pan and saute onions, garlic and carrots with the spices gently till soft. Add all other ingredients except chickpeas and spinach and cook for 1 1/2 hours, keeping an eye on the water level as I needed to add more a couple of times. Add the chickpeas after 1 1/4 hours, check seasonings, and add the spinach just a couple of minutes before serving.

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This was actually very cheap to make, using most of the vegetables from the garden and frozen cooked chickpeas I by in bulk. The pumpkin base and spices makes this dish but this is something that could easily be adapted to use what is available/ cheap at the time.

Garden Harvest Vegetable Stock

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For some weird reason this got me all excited lol. I am intrigued by it – this is a very different way of making vegetable stock! I should call my blog Stumble Upon because invariably what I show in my blog is other’s ideas and recipes I have stumbled upon out of need for something. I am thankful to http://myovercrowdedgarden.blogspot.co.nz/2013/10/homegrown-vegetable-stock-mix.html for putting this on her blog.

I had been wanting a natural vegetable stock powder. Commercial ones are too expensive, the thought of having to dehydrate and muck around creating my own was sounding like a long drawn out process. This looks perfect to try. It has a large amount of salt which preserves the paste for 6 months. The other thing that appealed was this looked a good way to use some of the frozen vegetables left from last season that have not such a great texture but still taste ok. For this I used a combination of fresh and frozen and am hoping the frozen doesn’t cause any deterioration in the storage time so it is an experiment. 2/3 of the vegetables are fresh though.

Basically 950 g of vegetables (any combination desired) are needed per ration of 250 g salt. Plus the garlic, herbs etc.

For this I used:

200 g pumpkin

200 g carrots

200 g leeks

100 g spinach

100 g onions

A few sundried tomatoes and cloves garlic

A large handful parsley and thyme

250 g salt

Put all in a food processor and process until smooth. This may need to be done in batches and combined at the end. Put into sterilised jars and apparently this will keep for 6 months in a cool, dry cupboard.

I seriously need to find another processor! Mine was bought secondhand about 8 years ago and the blades are quite blunt, hence this didn’t get quite a smooth as I would’ve liked but close to.

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Use a couple of teaspoons in soups, stews etc and season after adding this and doing a taste test as it is highly salted.

Ooooh….the spring gardens a-growing

We will have food again! Not that we haven’t been eating but the preserved stuff has dwindled and I have had to buy things I really hoped not to. All my frozen tomatoes and sauces and stuff finished about a month ago, also the pickled onions and beetroot. I have been buying potatoes for over 2 months and carrots, onions etc. All my dried fruit ran out months ago! We hoped to learn from last summer and we did – we did not preserve enough. I think we have about 6 jars of preserved fruit left, 4 jars of chutney…a little bit of preserved vegetables. We have 2 pumpkins left!

We are back to eating fresh from the garden though, the glasshouse has been providing salad greens, baby carrots, baby spinach and there are radish, silverbeet (chard), mustard, asparagus, broccoli and lots of herbs ready in the garden. Beetroot (beet) and broad beans (edame I think?) are not far away. Tons of onion, red onion, lettuce, carrot, beet, beans and leeks have been sown.

10 kg of seed potatoes have been planted.

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The raspberries are thriving! in the background are blackberries doing well but later in fruiting.

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Onions and garlic in the foreground which are just wee, raspberries and the grapes around the house have wee bunches forming…these are only 3 year old plants and last year we only got tiny inedible fruit.Image

Blackcurrants are flowering 🙂

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Boysenberries flowering! Our first.Image

And ta-da! We have apricots! We have planted numerous self seeded fruit trees around the place and this has taken a bit longer than the others…we had no idea what it was – peach, nectarine, apricot? We both hoped for an apricot and just found these, 2 apricot. Enough for a taste but next year it will be good!

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And tomatoes and zucchini planted under an erected shade-cloth shelter because we need these as soon as possible. We have 3 flowering plants in the glasshouse.

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And this is a fig tree cutting, just starting to bud. These are done from prunings just put in the ground under the mother tree, There are 10 of these, Roger wanted to try this and they have grown easily this way…but we have no use (certainly no room!) for 10 fig trees. We do have friends however, maybe they will be given fig trees for Xmas 🙂

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This year our pumpkins are going to be grown across the only piece of lawn left in the back yard, close to the house so an area has been dug up and lots of organic matter been thrown on ready for them shortly. I am now going to have to vie with pumpkins for a sunbathing place. Our quarter acre section will be full and Roger still told me last night, as he does every year “I have run out of room”. The only way from here is up!

Cottage Pie with Sweet Potato (Kumara) and Cheese Topping

Simple winter comfort food but made with a deeper flavour base than the cottage pies of old, with  combined potato and sweet orange kumara topping and cheese.Image

Quantities are approximate only, I usually just throw in a bit of this and a swig of something 🙂 so no need to be too specific. I also sometimes add mushrooms to this which is nice.

500 g mince beef

2 med onions, sliced

2 carrots

1 cup of frozen peas or green beans

1 tsp worcester sauce

2 tablespoons tomato sauce

1 tsp dried parsley

1 1/2 tsp salt and some black pepper

olive oil

500 grams (1 pound) potatoes

300 grams orange kumara (or pumpkin is nice)

50 g (2 oz) butter

little milk

grated cheese

Put the potatoes and kumara on to cook together in salted water. Preheat the oven to 350 deg.

Brown mince in electric frying pan, add onions, carrots, sauces, and seasoning and simmer 5 minutes like this, taking care not to scorch .

Add enough water to keep it simmering away for half an hour , add frozen peas and continue cooking 10 minutes.

Thicken with flour or whatever thickening agent you prefer (have used gravy powder in past).

Pour into oven dish.

Drain potatoes and sweet potato (or pumpkin) and mash with butter and a little milk till a good spreadable consistency. Spread over mince and top with grated cheese.

Cook for around 20 minutes till golden.