I have a vague recollection from when I was a kid. There were these school books we had to read to help us in our journey towards literacy. There were a few books in the series, filled with short stories that would be easy for young minds learning the finer points of reading. Two of the books really stick in my memory – ‘Sweet Porridge’ and ‘The Donkeys Egg’. The lead story that gave The Donkeys Egg book its name was a silly little story and if there was a moral to be had, it probably was to warn against foolishness and gullibility and was largely lost on my 6 or 7 year old self.
The gist of the story was a man and his wife were tricked into believing a pumpkin was a donkey’s egg and if they kept it warm for three weeks then it would hatch into a donkey. They duly kept the egg warm and cared for it until three weeks had passed. Frustrated at the lack of donkey, the man took the pumpkin and tossed it down a hill where it landed broken in a bush. A startled hare jumped out from the bush and hopped away. The man mistook the hare for a baby donkey and became upset at his impatience. If only he had waited just a bit longer, he could have had his donkey.
As a grown up I’m still a little bemused by this story and its actual purpose. Maybe some things are just there to be silly and entertain in a world where stories have little moral lessons to teach more than the art of reading.
Not wanting to waste this story and leave it hanging without a reason, I wanted to show you my donkeys eggs. I have loads and will soon have many donkeys hee-hawing about the place. But seriously, like the man in the story, when it the right time to harvest my pumpkins. If you go too soon then they won’t store very well and will begin to rot away before the winter really gets going.
The tell-tale signs are the leaves around the pumpkin will be brown and crispy and the pumpkin will sound a little bit hollow when tapped. I’m getting quite good at determining what a ripe hollow sound actually sounds like as I have mastered the art of harvesting watermelon at peak perfection. There is nothing better than a perfect, sweet and juicy watermelon harvested just moments ago.
However, if the hollow tapping is a bit vague and you can’t really tell, trying to pierce the skin with your fingernail is a great indication. If you poke a hole in the skin, it’s not ready but if you don’t leave a mark then it is ready to harvest. It is important to leave a long stalk to seal the pumpkin and prevent rot. It is also important to cure the pumpkin by leaving it in a warm sunny place for two weeks to make the skins hard and the flesh sweet. Don’t leave there for three weeks though or you may hatch out a donkey!
Come again soon – the warm autumn weather is lingering and we are more than aware that days like these are numbered.
Sarah the Gardener : o)