At this time of year, the harvest settles down to a trickle. And the immediate demands from the garden aren’t nearly as intense as they were a month ago. Now that we are passed the autumn equinox it is easy to get a little complacent, especially now the mornings are getting a little chilly and there is a heavy dew on the grass. But then you realize we haven’t had rain of any significance in over 10 days. The only telltale sign is things were starting to get a little droopy. How did I not notice we hadn’t had rain? It would seem I have been drifting through the days doing what needs to be done, but not paying any attention.
Fortunately for the peppers they can use bright screaming red to catch my eye and when passing through the garden, all of a sudden, they become obvious. The pumpkins on the other hand. I knew I was waiting for the leaves to die off, but mistook their signs of harvest for plants gasping for a drink. But no, they were done, and good to go.
All of them except the butternuts. They looked like they were heading off in the death throws direction but seem to have found a second wind and put out new flowers and fruit. At the time I wasn’t sure these newcomers would make it, but if this good weather continues, I think I may double my harvest. Some years we aren’t so lucky.
So, for the pumpkins I picked I washed them in a mild disinfectant solution to remove all the dirt and debris and left them in the sun on the deck to dry off and help their skins to cure a little bit. A couple of the buttercups have a few dings in them and won’t keep so I’ll bring them in to the kitchen and we’ll use them straight away. The kids reckon they don’t like pumpkin, but they will also tell you what I have to say about that “If I went to the trouble to grow it, you can go to the trouble of eating it!”
It wasn’t exactly a stella year for pumpkins and a couple of them are quite small. I like to think of them as lunchtime pumpkins that I can cook up and eat, just for me without anyone complaining about how horrible pumpkin tastes to them. I think my big problem is the wind situation – their beds are beyond the protection of the main wind break. I picked up some screens at the garden centre today and so this should improve things for next year.
I still have to remove all the dead pumpkin foliage and clean up the beds. Then I’ll sow a cover crop. I haven’t decided if I’ll go for mustard or lupin. Mustard will help clean up the soil, but the lupin will add bulk organic material. Maybe I should go for both – either together or one after the other? I’m not sure which. But as these beds aren’t in the crop rotation it is important to put something in there in between seasons.
The peppers, because they are mostly shop bought seedlings because of my disaster early on in the season of having to rip them out and burn them because of disease, they are running a little late. But there were enough red ones to get a good harvest, although I’m not sure what I will do with most of them just yet as we still have oodles of chili sauces from last year. Chili sauce isn’t exactly something you rush through, not in the same way that the kids can get through a jar of jam in a sitting if I let them!
I was, to be honest, quite disappointed in my jalapeno. Once again, the harvest was really meagre and after discovering cowboy candy last year, I really want to make a load more. As I was picking the red cayenne peppers, I noticed how fleshy and plump they were looking and did a “hmmm I wonder” So I plucked off plenty of green ones thinking they’ll do instead.
I tentatively sliced one open, just hoping they were indeed fleshy because otherwise I’d need to have a long hard think about what I’d do with half a kilo of green cayenne peppers. The looked just like the jalapeno – well almost, not quite as fleshy but a good enough substitute, just a little bit skinnier.
It wasn’t until I was mostly through slicing them up (bravely or foolishly without gloves – you choose) it occurred to me I should see if in fact they do make a good substitute by checking out the Scoville scale. Turns out Jalapeno are sitting at 2500 – 8000 units so nicely toasty with a good degree of burn. Then I checked out cayenne peppers: 30,000 – 50,000! Opps. But I was committed. Not only had I pretty much chopped them all up, but I’d also prepared the sugar / vinegar solution and it was boiling up on the stove.
It can’t be that bad really? The sugar and the vinegar are supposed to help reduce the heat. But just to be sure, I put all the chopped chilies in a container with a lid and gave it a jolly good shake to release as many seeds as possible. This should help lower the temperature a little… I hope. So, time will tell in 4 – 6 weeks when they have matured. Hopefully, they’ll be edible.
Come again soon – the pumpkin bed isn’t the only one I need to clear. It’s almost time to plant my early garlic!
Sarah the Gardener : o)