In thirty years, squash and other cucurbits have become vegetables in their own right, benefiting from the revival of forgotten vegetables, thanks to the obstinacy of gardeners collectors, followed by the great chefs.
Our palates have become accustomed to these different flavors. These are plants so beautiful, so spectacular, so varied and so easy to grow that every garden and even every balcony, for a few years, has been proud of them.
Decades ago, it was almost impossible to present a pumpkin soup at a dinner party: hardly anyone liked it! I remember eating my first pumpkin pie at a party cooked up by a friend, an American student, for Thanksgiving. We were 20 years old… and still talking about it.
This traditional dessert from the other side of the Atlantic, some could not even swallow it, others (like me) swallowed it out of politeness but almost with disgust. Now, a soup, made of squash cooked simply in salted milk, mixed very strongly so that it is almost foamy and served in the hollowed pumpkin, commands the admiration and the gluttony of all the guests.
And when I bring a pie to the table with whipped cream, flavored with ginger, my guests go into ecstasies. Our tastes have really changed: travel, world cuisine has changed everything in our daily life.
From now on, our vegetable gardens, in the fall, are colored with gold, bronze and fire. Pumpkins, Jack be little, Siam Squash, Golden Apple, Bishop’s Turban, Bright Etampes Red… Not to mention the Spaghetti Squash, the patisson, the Butternut. Their color differs according to the variety: orange, green, yellow, white and two-tone, even marbled. Their flesh is white, yellow, saffron, orange, sometimes vermilion. All have very distinct tastes, sometimes almost sweet, which predisposes them to various uses.
Picking and storing squash
You have been taking them for a few weeks, as you need them, but there are still some left in the garden. In the ground, they continued their ripening quietly, well insulated from the ground, with a slate, a tile or a plank, so as not to deteriorate under the autumn rains.
Now, it is high time to bring in those that you do not abandon to the garden decor in winter – for a beautiful effect, plant, next to those that you “forget” outside, a few pink or purple ornamental sprouts -, and to the greed and greed of our small fauna.
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In this season, if the squash are ripe, the peduncle is almost cork. They should never be caught by this peduncle. Proceed in dry weather, cut the fruits as close as possible to the stem, keeping a piece of the tail to ensure optimal conservation. Do not hit them, do not hurt them, otherwise they will rot.
Place them on a table, in the sun, for an hour or two, so that they sweat, then store them in a frost-free, well-ventilated cellar or in a cool room. Some have storage capacities of a few months, others of two years. During the winter, regularly watch them, and if one is damaged, remove it immediately, so that it does not damage the others.
A lantern for the holidays
If the pumpkin, with eyes and a mouth that glow in the night, has been the hallmark of Halloween since we adopted this custom, it has a place on our windowsills to wait for the end of the holiday season. of the year, in order to wink at Santa Claus. This craft is to be practiced with your children: they will love it! Be careful not to hurt yourself because the skin of squash is very hard.
You need a good-sized pumpkin, a large sharp knife, a small sharp knife, a thin screwdriver, a sturdy spoon (or an ice cream scoop), a salad bowl, a felt-tip pen.
– Cut out the upper part, like a cap, with a large knife. Reserve it.
– Thoroughly empty the pumpkin, removing the flesh with a spoon.
– Put this flesh in the salad bowl, to make a soup.
– The stringy part is to be discarded, but keep the seeds, which will be roasted and served as an aperitif, or to add to a salad to give it crunch.
– Rinse the emptied pumpkin thoroughly.
– Decide if you want a smiley, mean or sad face. For the holidays, your choice is a smile, right?
– Use felt-tip pen to draw the shapes of the eyes, nose and mouth.
– Cut, with the small knife, the desired shapes. To make it easier, you must start drilling with the screwdriver, before cutting.
– At nightfall, install a candle with a wide base, so that it holds well. A tea light candle does the job perfectly.
– Cover with the cap, and here is a manifestation of Advent to put at the entrance of the house!
Can you collect the seeds for future sowing?
If you grow several kinds of squash and zucchini in your vegetable garden, they will certainly hybridize. The plants from your seeds then risk being a happy mix between all these varieties. Between the wind and the pollinating insects, the pollen wanders from flower to flower.
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Do you only grow one variety? But your neighbor? And the neighbor’s neighbor? It can be fun to see what you are going to harvest, thanks to the chance of hybridization, right? You may have a happy surprise, or, on the contrary, an inedible fruit.
Are you trying the adventure? Wash the seeds thoroughly, let them dry on a tea towel for several days before storing them until next spring, when sowing. Do you want to collect seeds of a specific variety? It is then necessary to proceed to a manual fertilization … And there, that’s another story!