Sunday, 23 September 2007

butternut squash

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the native American gardeners who transformed our gardening and eating habits.
They gave us potatoes, tomatoes, maize, peppers and chillies. If it is difficult to imagine how we fed ourselves before Europeans visited the new world, it is because we didn't. Carbohydrates before those times were limited to beans, cereals and root crops in British kitchens.
A particular favourite American in the autumn garden is the sprawling butternut squash. Planted from saved seeds (originally scooped some years ago from a Tesco organic butternut squash), the squash always seems slow to 'get going'. It only begins to flower in late August and it is in mid to late September when the baby fruits form. We have made the mistake in previous years of allowing squashes to grow too large. By doing this they have sapped the energy of the plant and we have fruits too large to be practicable in the kitchen. By taking squashes smaller, we hope to encourage more to be set and to grow on to harvest. The plants will keep ion sending their long stems across the garden and so these have 'stopped' by pinching out the growing tips to concentrate the plants energies on small fruits already formed.
We have begun harvesting and have brought two small fruits home. They will be stored in net bags in the shed until their skins go a beautiful sandy pink.
Their flesh, by then, will be dense and orange - with a sweet nutty flavour that is much more intense than that of pumpkins.
A favourite winter soup!

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