Wednesday 9 November 2011

Not the biggest pumpkin harvest ever – a labelling mix-up meant I ended up with three more courgettes and three fewer squashes than I thought I had – but some good eaters here. The grey-green fruit are Berrettina Piacentina, from Seeds Of Italy, whose flesh is bright orange in colour with a dense sweet flavour somewhere between sweet potato and chestnut. Similarly, Marina di Chioggia, which has knobbled skin and that distinctive ‘Turk’s turban’ bubble at the bottom. For some reason, my Marina di Chioggias are always smoother-skinned than most, but again, fine eating. Only one Butternut this year: they started fruiting very late, and had the warm start to October continued, ooh, for another six weeks, I might have had a much more substantial crop.

A sunny end to the summer helps to ripen pumpkins and squash here in the UK, but they must be lifted before the first frost – freezing temperatures will turn them to mush. Once harvested, they need to be ‘cured’, left in a dry well-ventilated sunny place to further mature. If you eat a squash straight form the plant, it will taste very raw and green. Left for a couple of months the flavour develops and deepens. As with any stored fruit, they need to be inspected regularly for signs of rot, but most will last happily into the New Year and I find are at their best around Christmas-time. I have stored squash successfully right through until the next year’s harvest, but they are usually all eaten up by February-March.

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