We’ve just harvested our pumpkin crop!
2 small but perfectly formed baby pumpkins.
Not very impressive you might say and indeed you are right.
I have friends who are not even interested in gardening who seem to be able to carelessly toss a few pumpkin seeds into the earth and 4 months later have something huge and orange to show for it.
Year one, I planted a pumpkin seed and it didn’t even appear from the ground.
Year two, I received a large packet of ‘Giant Pumpkin Seeds’ as a present.
All excited and full of hopes and dare I say it ‘large ambitions’ , I duly planted them all and though they grew nice and green and leafy and produced a few flowers, the men and the lady flowers never really, you know, got their acts together to open at the same time. (now let me see…ladies, does that ever happen in the human world? Surely not…or… erm… ?)
Anyway, mating rituals aside, even my trying to change the course of nature with a paintbrush didn’t help. So, that was that.
This year, I decided to give it one more shot and duly planted some mixed variations.
To my surprise, they grew and grew and grew and produced lots of male flowers (which I picked and stuffed and fried, Italian style - yum!) and then… suddenly they produced female flowers, too and before we knew it, we had two tiny baby pumpkins on our hands.
But then… disaster struck.
I wandered out into the garden with my morning tea only to spill it all over my pyjamas when I saw that two of the pumpkin plants had been dug out of their pot!
With my heart missing a beat, I rushed to trace the green leafy stalks back to my precious baby pumpkins, relieved to find that neither were attached to the vandalized stalks.
Who wreaked this wonton destruction, as in so many garden disaster cases, we have no idea. My money is on the squirrel twins who also upturned a window box full of lettuce on my beef tomato plants putting an end to my dreams of homemade ketchup.
Summer continued in her beautiful way and all looked fine in the pumpkin world.
They weren’t exactly growing huge and fat, but they looked like pumpkins and after all I had been through, this was more than enough.
However, again, I woke up one morning to discover ‘something’ with large paws had trampled all over the bushes and had broken off one of my babies by the stalk. Ahhh… I almost cried.
She was, however, not damaged - just prematurely born. So, I stored her in the shed and waited to see what might happen to her sister.
Luckily, nothing else befell the pumpkin patch and just last week I harvested the 2nd one with great pride.
So yup, it’s been a long journey fraught with the difficult emotions of disappointment, envy ( of our neighbors huge pumpkins) and sudden shocks.
But, now, it’s all been worth it!
After such a journey, I felt I needed to create something like Really Special and decided to create a warm autumn salad. This heavenly mixture of roasted pumpkin slices, sweet red onions, goats cheese and walnuts was sprinkled with a special ‘port salt’ I brought back from my recent holiday in Portugal and then drizzled with a sweet chilli dressing. A fitting way to celebrate our very first pumpkin crop, however small. Yeh!
It’s pretty easy to throw all together and basically is all done in the oven.
Inspired by salads I had eaten on my aforementioned Portugal adventure which were served on large wooden boards covered with a layer of parchment paper, I decided to do the same and really liked the effect.
Our meal was completed with some sweet potato slices but this salad goes with anything and also perfectly alone.
So… whatever the size of your pumpkins, here’s the recipe below!
INGREDIENTS (serves 2)
- two small pumpkins, half a smallish-medium one or an eighth of a mother-fucker one but of course we don't talk about those.
- one large red onion
- one or two whole cloves of garlic, crushed but not sliced
- a chilli ( optional but nice - mine was sun-dried from my garden - another success)
- some garden herbs ( I used rosemary but thyme, oregano, marjoram would also work)
- two rounds of goats cheese (the kind you can put in the oven)
- a handful of walnuts
- a handful of mixed salad leaves (rocket might be nice, too)
- a tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce
- a half tablespoon of white vinegar
- lots of olive oil
- put your oven on at 180 degrees C
- prepare your wooden board by covering with a nicely measured out piece of parchment.
- whip up the dressing by mixing the sweet chilli sauce and vinegar together. Put aside.
- slice the pumpkins in 2 and scoop out the seeds and flesh in the middle
- cut into thin slices
- cut your onion into thin slices, too.
- place pumpkin slices, onion, garlic on a tray, sprinkle with oil, herbs and season with salt and pepper.
- bake for half an hour or until pumpkins slices are soft
- while the baking is happening, cut your goats cheese into 1cm thick slices, sprinkle with herbs and drizzle with oil
- for the last 5 minutes of the half hour, pop them into the oven to heat.
- assemble your salad by laying a layer of salad leaves on the board, then adding the warm vegetables. Top with the goats cheese, sprinkle with walnuts, season , drizzle with your sweet chilli dressing then tell me this wasn’t just heaven.
So, that’s it for now folks!
Enjoy and until next time…