It never occurred to me to decorate a pumpkin at Halloween any other way than carving it, but Melissa from the Empress of Dirt blog recently published a post calling for entries to a pumpkin decorating competition where pumpkins are embellished rather than sculptured and it seems such a great idea.
If you’ve ever carved pumpkins you’ll have noticed how quickly they go mouldy inside, yet when they’re left in one piece they’ll last for months, which is great if you’re wondering what you can cook up after the festive season that’s cheap, cheerful and healthy.
We usually carve one or two pumpkins at Halloween to hold tea lights on the windowsills, but I’ve friends and neighbours with several dotted around their homes and gardens. That’s a lot of pumpkin flesh to use up or freeze at a busy time of year. Embellishing the pumpkins can give you the best of both worlds – a decorated squash in October that you can eat at Christmas.
I opted for a natural, ‘green man’ look with the giant community garden squash that will be on display at Savour Kilkenny (using a glue gun to stick everything to the pumpkin).
If you’re in Kilkenny this weekend and would like to see it, the Kilkenny Community Garden Network will have a stand in the Leader Partnership marquee on Sunday, where we’ll be selling this seasons chutneys and jams, made by the gardeners from produce mostly sown and grown in Callan community garden this year.
I was planning to make an autumn door wreath but haven’t managed to, yet this seems to make up for it. Our eldest daughter wasn’t so keen on my ‘green’ pumpkin as she couldn’t see its orange skin behind the leaves but Mr G loved it as he’s always been a Green Man fan.
What do you think? Could you be persuaded to hang on to your pumpkin a bit longer, embellish it and perhaps make a soup from its flesh or roast the seeds in a couple of months time, or are you a carving traditionalist, something that was after all, supposed to have originated in Ireland?
Not content with growing the vegetables, a couple of weeks ago I rashly gamely offered to demonstrate a few ways of cooking pumpkin flesh at Callan community garden as there’s little point in growing food if we don’t know how to prepare and eat it. It’s the first year we’ve grown a pumpkin patch there and as the fruit have swollen nicely, it seemed a good idea to demonstrate that there’s more to pumpkins than Halloween window decorations. I’m sure many of us are, or have been guilty of discarding the flesh we scoop out and it seems such a waste of good food. In the shops and farmers markets, pumpkins are coming into season and are a vegetable/fruit that will store for months in a cool, dry environment, making them a fantastic winter staple.
Not only do pumpkins make great decorations, they are extremely good for us, containing over 200% of our recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, the vitamin that’s good for our eye sight, they’re rich in fibre, contain very few calories and are great for helping to lower cholesterol among other things.
I’m a family cook who likes a recipe in front of me (even though I stray from it quite regularly) which therefore resulted in a very informal cookery session at the family resource centre where everyone helped with the prepping and washing up, before gathering to share the food presented. I chose two safe, tried and tasted savoury pumpkin recipes using the flesh from one medium-sized pumpkin, as well as a roasted seed recipe that you can find below. I also demonstrated how to make courgette cake, a recipe I’ve talked about on several occasions but gardeners had yet to try. The courgette cake recipe can be found here and the basic soup and delicately flavoured pumpkin rice recipes here. I’m afraid there’s no photos as I was too busy cooking.
If you’d like to try cooking pumpkins this year, as well as the recipes linked above that I cooked for the group, I’ve added a few variations of soup at the bottom of the post from some fellow garden bloggers.
Roasted pumpkin seeds
225g pumpkin seeds
2 tbls salt
1 tblsp olive oil
Heat oven to 20oºC/Gas 6/400ºF
Remove the ‘lid’ of the pumpkin at the stalk end by cutting a disk shape around the top with a sharp knife. Scoop out the soft, seedy, fibrous flesh inside with a metal spoon and place into a colander, leaving the tougher flesh that’s around the inside of the pumpkin to tackle later for another recipe.
Pick out as many of the seeds as you can before sifting through the rest under a tap of running water. (Tip: do this holding the colander over a bowl and use the drained water for the plants or flush the toilet with it.)
Add the seeds, water and salt to a saucepan, bring to the boil then simmer for ten minutes or so to allow the seeds to soften.
Take off the heat, drain, pat the seeds dry with a clean tea towel then toss in the olive oil before placing on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Roast in the oven for around ten to twenty minutes, until the seeds brown.
Three Pumpkin Soup Recipes
Soup is such a versatile dish, quick to make and winter warming too. Here are some links to three variations of pumpkin soup you might like to try.
Pumpkin Decorating Contest from The Empress of Dirt
If you’d like to try your hand at decorating this year’s pumpkins with embellishments and not carving them, there’s a fun competition over on Melissa’s Empress of Dirt Blog where the winning entry could take on the illustrious title of Creator Of The Ultimate Pumpkin Head of 2014!
The words from the social media stream of Foxglove Lane, one of my favourite photographic blogs, captured the almost overnight change in our weather. Our wonderfully long Indian summer is coming to an end. The leaves have started to flutter down in the autumn breeze and the hedgerows are giving us hints of the glorious shades that will soon adorn the landscape in their fall displays.
In the laneways the hedge cutters are busy trimming and tidying and thankfully those around us are doing so with sharpened blades that don’t leave the branches scared, torn and naked. The hedgerows are looking trim and tidy, ready to take the weight of snow that may befall them and the regrowth that springtime will bring.
In our homestead Mr G has been busy clearing out sheds so he has room to cut and store firewood and make space for workshop repairs, a never-ending pastime when you live in an old, rescued farmhouse.
And the garden… I’m beginning to despair at the lack of time I’m managing to find in my own. I do know however, this is a temporary glitch, soon I’ll be able to spend some precious hours inhaling the scent of soil and vegetation, preparing the garden for winter, hopefully before the rains come.
If you’re growing vegetables and are wondering what you could be doing outside now in the autumn days to ready it for winter, here’s seven jobs you could be getting on with. I keep adding to them, this was meant to be a list of five, and of course there’s plenty more, but I might frighten myself if I begin to list them all…
Seven Jobs in the Autumn Vegetable Garden
1. Pumpkins, Courgettes and Squash
The days and nights are still warm but that could change, quick as a flash. Keep a close eye on your squash plants and the weather forecast as members of the squash family are frost tender. If you haven’t already done so, cut the stems of any plants that aren’t producing fruit and stop them growing. Small fruit are unlikely to amount to anything at this stage so its sadly time to get rid of them too. It may seem harsh but it will allow the plant to put all it’s energy into developing the remaining fruit on the plant. For more information on growing, harvesting and caring for squash, the RHS have a very useful information page here.
Courgettes will be coming to the end of their season and you may have noticed some whiteness on the leaves. This is likely to be powdery mildew and can be treated by removing the worst of the infected leaves from the plant and spraying the rest with a solution of 30% milk to 70% water. Don’t forget that plants have a natural lifespan and many will be starting to die off at this stage anyway so it may just be time to let nature take her natural course.
2. Clear away dead plants and debris
Now’s a great time to get outside and clear away all the debris of plants that have finished growing. Compost anything that’s not diseased, tidy away canes and netting. Clear away dead leaves away from plants such as the brassica that will be overwintering.
3. Cover the Soil
Once you’ve cleared away all the old plants and vegetable debris from around your garden, you may be left with beds of bare soil. If you’re not planning on planting any vegetables to overwinter, it’s a good idea to cover the soil with well-rotted manure or compost then cover them with black plastic or cardboard to prevent the nutrients leaching out during the winter months and polluting water streams. This will not only feed the soil over the winter months but prevent weeds growing too.
If you don’t have access to manure or compost, most garden centres and online stores now sell green manures that can be sown and left to grow until the springtime before being dug into the soil before planting season begins again.
4. Start Collecting Leaves
Leaves are a valuable source of nutrients and will rot down to create leaf mould that will turn into a wonderful soil conditioner. It’s a good idea to keep leaves separate from your compost area. Sacks can be purchased to keep them in or make a leaf mould bin using four fence posts and some chicken wire. The Secret Garden blog explains leaf mould in more detail and why it makes sense to collect our leaves.
5. Look After Your Rhubarb Patch
I spotted some very useful tips from the Real Men Sow blog recently that will tell you how to look after your rhubarb patch in the autumn. If you haven’t done so already, stop harvesting, let the leaves die down naturally then mulch heavily with well-rotted manure. Don’t cover the crowns completely is it may encourage rot to set in. Tending to your rhubarb now will make sure you get a good crop of stalks next year.
Grab what you can when you can! I’m pining for some time to preserve all the fruit and vegetable growing in my garden but have given up stressing about it. Berries (including hedgerow berries) can be frozen flat on trays then bagged up, ready for some quieter time during the winter months for jam and juice making. Apples can be washed, peeled, sliced and basted with lemon juice before freezing flat on trays, then bagging up. Runner beans can be blanched and frozen in handy sized bags and courgettes will keep for a while in a cool, dry shed. (Whatever would we do without a freezer?!)
7. Plant something new
Just because we’re approaching winter, doesn’t mean we can’t grow anything. Now’s the time to plant overwintering onion sets and garlic cloves. Oriental salad leaves grow well in our climate as well as winter spinach and hardy peas.
If you’d like more than seven things to get on with in the vegetable garden, check out the Garden Tips page on the tab above for a month by month guide, as well as some handy, free downloads. Oh and if you can think up any upcycling ideas for a pile of old bicycles, be sure to let me know!
Slightly misleading snap in that I took it a couple of weeks ago on a Sunday in a community garden in Bundoran, County Donegal. It does go to show however, that squashes and pumpkins can grow very well outside in Ireland, even on a coastal breezy site.
Don’t they just capture everything that is quintessentially autumn. Are you growing any pumpkins this year?
From time to time I receive requests from people asking if they can guest blog on the Greenside Up website and in general I’ve declined but an enquiry a few weeks ago from Deborah of Premier Polytunnels was written so politely and on a subject I was about to post myself, I was more than happy for a polytunnel expert to write it for you!
It’s always preferable to support and shop locally but although I write largely for an Irish audience, I know that almost as many of you looking at my blog are doing so from the UK. The link for this particular Lancashire supplier is therefore for you!
Although Premier are more than happy to supply and deliver polytunnels to Ireland, we already have some good, competitive and friendly suppliers living here. Gillespie Polytunnels in Donegal and Highbank Polytunnels in Kilkenny have both been great friends of community garden projects and Polydome in the midlands are very popular too.
For now though, here’s some useful tips from Deborah…
Spot the powdery mildew appearing on courgette leaves indicating the end of season
Polytunnel growing during the autumn and winter months
As autumn begins to set in, some of the gardening community are beginning to check their soggy borders as they contemplate a long winter with very little growing to enjoy.
Not so for those who’ve been fortunate enough to have invested in a polytunnel. Polytunnel gardening is not only a wonderful way to enjoy an extended growing season but it’s also a great route into organic growing.
Celebrating the harvest today with my local community in Old Leighlin.
Greenside Up Display at Leighlin Parish Harvest Festival
Here’s a quick snap of the Greenside Up display. I was situated next to the Leighlin Community Gardeners where we planted bulbs and seeds in paper pots with the village children. Below is a snapshot of songs and crafts happening around me.
I’ve written a couple of posts about growing herbs but once you have a sufficient quantity, you might like to start using them. Herbs can easily be popped into bags and frozen loose. They can also be chopped up, placed into ice-cube trays, topped up with water and added directly to dishes later, or they can be dried by hanging them upside down in bunches which allows the full flavour of their oils to develop.
This year I’m making much more of an effort to preserve our food. It started with the three different fruit cordials recently blogged and now it’s the turn of the herbs
If like me you tend to leave herbs to flower for the bees, popping outside only occasionally to snatch fresh handfuls to add to cooked meals or salads, you might like to try flavouring vinegars with them that can be drizzled onto food for a change.
It involves adding a few sprigs of herbs to sterilised bottles and completely covering them with a vinegar of choice. I’ve started by separately adding tarragon, mint and fennel into three small, *sterilised bottles filled with a simple white wine vinegar. I’m still on the look out for a locally sourced cider vinegar given that it’s so good for us too!
When to pick herbs
The best time to pick herbs is in the early morning after the dew has dried and before they flower and are at their most flavourful.
Tarragon vinegar can be used as a base for a vinaigrette or added to soups, casseroles and sauces. Mixed with cream it’s a delicious accompaniment to chicken. Mint and vinegar are synonymous with lamb dishes but will be tasty with salads and couscous. Fennel vinegar can be added to salads, chicken and fish dishes.
How to sterilise bottles
We save bottles and jars for preserving but there are some pretty alternatives for sale if you’d like to use them for gifts. Either way they should be sterilised and the easiest way I’ve found is to soak them in hot, soapy water, wash them thoroughly removing all the labels and glue then pop them in an oven to dry at 180 °C for about 15 minutes and fill them when they’re still hot.
Once bottled the vinegar should be stored in a cool, dark place.
Do you have a favourite recipe that would taste delicious with a herb vinegar?
Autumn is the most vibrant season of the year with the full spectrum of orange, browns, yellows and reds shining out from the hedgerows and fields.
It’s also the time of year most associated with harvesting and preserving and I can’t help but wish those glorious reds (or even a hint of yellow or orange) had extended into my polytunnel and were now the main colour of my tomatoes! Instead, around two-thirds of this years tomato crop are still green. Healthy but definitely green, which has left me once again trawling through the recipe books so as not to waste the harvest. October is also the month for picking red chilli peppers and Bramley cooking apples, making this a deliciously seasonal chutney.
Green Belle and Celine Tomatoes and Mixed Chilli Peppers
When we blog recipes we often worry that we’re not crediting them correctly but given that I’m rubbish at following them and usually end up adding ingredients or leaving some out, making up recipes can come quite naturally as a result. On this occasion it appears to have worked as initial tasting is quite sumptuous (and most chutney recipes are based on a similar variety of ingredients anyway). The chutney is quite sweet yet because of the additional chilli peppers, leaves a fiery aftertaste (depending upon how many you add). The flavours can only improve over the next few weeks as they are allowed to blend.
The quantity given will make around nine jars of various sizes (I have a lot of green tomatoes!) so halve or quarter it to your own needs.
1.6kg green tomatoes, diced
400g Bramley cooking applies, diced
600g red or white onions or scallions, diced
1-3 red chilli peppers to taste
4 cloves garlic
500ml cider vinegar
2.5cm piece root ginger, finely chopped or grated
400 g soft brown sugar
Add all the ingredients to a large stainless steel saucepan, bring to the boil then simmer for around an hour or two or until liquid has a firmer consistency and isn’t as runny and the ingredients resemble a chunky chutney.
Empty into freshly sterilised jars and seal whilst the ingredients are hot. Leave for around three weeks to allow the flavours to blend and settle before serving.
Chutney makes a delicious accompaniment to cheese and freshly baked bread.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.