"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Baby marrows

This blog posting is especially for all those in c-o-l-d Europe and UK and the US of A.  Take heart - your spring is on it's way...

In Spring I planted a bunch of different members of the cucurbita family, in different ways.

Firstly, a couple went into the ground.  Normal run of the mill planting for two pumpkin, one baby marrow, and one butternut plant.  But, last year the pumpkins in the ground didn't fair so well.  I reckon the ground got too hot, and I had to water them twice a day to prevent the leaves from wilting.  Also, I don't think the hot, dry summer wind help either.  So, this time the ground plants were protected with a straw bale wall on the two windy sides.  And, the holes were filled with a mixture of straw, alpaca dung and soil.

Then, I had a few straw bales which I had "treated".  Two gem squash, and two pumpkins went into the straw bales.  The squash took off immediately, and the pumpkins have trailed along slowly.

And lastly, I planted a couple into some "towered" tyres.

I thought it would be interesting to see which of the three methods performed best.

RMan kindly purchased a 5000lt water tank at my request and he positioned right next too the cucurbit area.  Excellent, now I can water my plants with rain water :)

Excellent - I have plenty of water nearby!
A view of the ground bed.
In between the bales I sowed a baby marrow,
a butternut, and two pumpkin seeds.
The "baby" marrow is the large leafed plant
in the centre of the bed at the back.
Closest bales are planted with pumpkins, and
the farthest bales are squash
I especially only planted what I thought was one baby marrow plant, as last year I was overrun with them.
My one "baby" marrow plant in December lst year
This was the "baby marrow" in mid-December.  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat is going on...?
This is the same plant over this last weekend
I currently have 5 "baby" marrows growing...
... and how did this happen?  I didn't buy either a large marrow or marrow seeds - ever!  I saved a couple of the baby marrow seeds from last season, and popped them in the ground.  But, this is no baby marrow.  The day the flower opens the ruddy thing is already longer and almost as thick as my hand. I swear if we had a nuclear plant nearby I would blame that!
3.5kgs - and this is the smallest one I have
picked.  It was even too heavy for my kitchen scale.
The other six I've picked went to parttime workers,
friends and family...
But, what to do with giant baby marrows?

There are just so many one can eat.  And give away.

So, I have stuffed them.

I have made a large bowl of chilled marrow soup (recipe at the end of this blog posting if anyone is interested).

And I have cut up a couple of carrots into small cubes and boiled them until they are almost cooked.  Then I cut up the marrow into similarly sized cubes and threw them into the pot with the carrots.  Boil them for a couple of minutes until the water is reduced to almost a tablespoonful, add a cholesterol lowering portion of cream, and some salt and pepper.  RMan doesn't "do" veggies, but he said he'd eat that again :)
The butternut plants in the tyres are doing well - each have at least 4 - 5 - in various stages of growth.
Butternut plants growing in tyres
Isn't it cute :)
I'm fascinated how the flower is a
perfect replica of the plant which is about
to grow.  Isn't genetics wonderful 
This method of growing cucurbita definitely
works well.

My grandson, Mike, l-o-v-e-s squash - boiled, and served with a knob of butter and a drizzle of honey.  He ate 4 halves in the wink of an eye :)
The pumpkins in the strawbales are taking their time to produce fruit - but I guess that sorts out any succession planting and my summer harvesting - the later procuced pumpkins will be put in storage for net winter :)

So - thus far what have I found?

Protecting the plants in the ground from the drying wind has definitely helped. So has adding plenty of straw and alpaca dung to the hole.

The tyres - also filled with layers of soil, straw and alpaca dung - are performing well and the plants are producing plenty of fruit.

And the strawbales?

They are proving a tad difficult to water.  I have to shove the hosepipe into the bale to ensure that the water doesn't run off.  That is causing the bales to collapse.  But, the squash plants are producing.

Will I try these three methods again next year?  Definitely :)

Although my veggies seemed to take a while to get going this year, I did have enough to give to neighbours as gifts.
Homegrown swiss chard, marrows, purple beans,
strawberries, cocktail tomatoes and a jar of
homemade strawberry jam.
Nothing nicer than sharing :)

Recipe for chilled marrow soup:

Cut up as much marrow as you want - I used roughly 1.5 kgs.
Peel and cube 2 - 3 potatoes.
1 chicken stock boullion cube
Salt & pepper to taste
Sprinkle of grated nutmeg

Add all the above to a pot and cook until mushy.  Add roughly 1 litre of milk to the pot and blend with a stick blender.

Shove into the fridge to chill.

Just before serving swirl in some cream and serve with fresh rolls which have been halved, buttered and covered with slices of brie / camenbert / chedder cheese.  Shove the topped rolls under the grill until the cheese has melted and serve immediately with the chilled soup.

Delicious :)


dreamer said...

So lovely to see things growing and producing whilst we are in the middle of winter and all this wet and windy weather. I am longing for some sun and gardening time.
While I have been looking after my friend's alpacas I have been collecting poop and topping up all my raised beds with it. I will save a few bags full to use in the holes where I plant up my squash and pumpkins to give those an extra kick too.

Your produce looks great :)

Lindsey at NW Backyard Veggies said...

I have grown them in tires and in the ground and both did appreciatively well as long as they were HEAVILY amended with some form of manure - I used rabbit but alpaca is like magic poo when it comes to the heavy feeders like Walthum Butternut, pumpkin and zucchini. I like the tire method, but I've never stacked two of them! What a great idea! I'm totally doing that this year!
I love watching your garden grow as my days are dark and damp here in Washington. Spring is coming, yes. I'll just gaze longingly at your farm and my seed catalogs!

Mum said...

I always plant more courgette plants than we really need and consequently get over-run with courgettes. As soon as our back is turned these little courgettes grow into marrow monsters so thank you for your soup recipe. Come summer this soup will be a 'go to' for us.
Love from Mum

Quinn said...

Yum, yum, and yummity yum! I love squashes, all squashes, and am already musing about the types to plant this year. In addition to pattypan, of course! :)

Leigh said...

I am so hungry for fresh veggies right now! You garden looks absolutely fantastic. And hurray for the rainwater tanks!

Harry Flashman said...

I never heard of these before but they look great all cooked up.

Dani said...

dreamer - I thought y'all might need some inspiration whilst you're all in the midst of winter and it's inclement weather LOL

How long are you going to be taking care of your friends' alpacas? Have you seen them sheared yet...? ;)

Dani said...

Lindsey - Take heart - you're passed the half way mark so hopefully it won't be that much longer... :)

Dani said...

Mum - Of all the cucurbits baby marrows are the most prolific, and the least eaten in my house - thus only one seedling. But, it seems even that is too much...! ;)

Dani said...

Quinn - Now that is one I HAVEN'T planted. Why - I have no idea! LOL

Dani said...

Leigh - Thanks :) Yeah, rainwater - how do people live without them? In the last three days we have collected over 20 000 ltrs!

Dani said...

Harry - My "instant" Kodak camera doesn't do the marrow and carrot dish justice - they tasted far, far better than they appear in the photo.

dreamer said...

Probably a couple more weeks of looking after them, my friend had a knee operation and is on two crutches just now. I don't mind, they are so much fun to be around. I haven't seen them sheared yet.

Dani said...

dreamer - It comes as quite a shoc when they are - suddenly they are skinny and totally "un-threatening". Does your friend ahve a blog re: her alpaca's?