I’ve been a round the gardening block for ages, and I’ve learnt things. Many things. But still I fall into traps, make mistakes and don’t follow my own advice. One of the things I say often to many people – ‘if you don’t like it don’t grow it!’ That is why I have a large bed of kidney beans for yummy and delicious winter chilli con carne and zingy nachos, not a bed full of yucky (*disclaimer – my opinion only) runner beans. I did grow them in my first year, because what is a garden without beans? Then I grew them in the second year because the bamboo pole structure is really cool and I enjoyed building it. But then I realised my folly and filled the bed with dwarf French green beans, because maybe I’d like those better (I didn’t) but also my bamboo pole structure kept falling down. It just wasn’t meant to be. Although I have recently discovered the Joeyosaurus actually likes beans, so I have been denying him the pleasure for most of his life. Next season I need to put some Joey beans in.
I also grow broad beans. It is no secret that I don’t like broad beans, but not a lot grows in winter and so it gives me purpose. Look at me – gardening in the winter! Besides I’d heard somewhere that it takes 21 attempts to like something (or was that doing something 21 times before it became a habit) either way, by my calculations broad beans have another 9 years to worm their way into my affections…
I tell people (lessons mostly learnt through my mistakes) label everything so you know what you have. I’m pretty good at this now, but occasionally the label will fade or disappear completely and I have no idea what I’m growing and become pleasantly surprised when something exciting pops up and it is like recognising an old friend you haven’t seen in ages! Such a delight.
I also tell people, take notes – if you try something for the first season, and you didn’t like it, write it down so you remember not to grow it again. Once again I ignored this advice with Indigo Rose Tomatoes. They looked so promising with their little deep purple skins, only to be disappointed by their flavour. The next season I picked up the packet – still in my collection, ummed and erred and grew them again, because ‘they’d look nice in a salad’. Just because you still have the seed packet you are not obliged to grow them again… give it away to someone else, they might enjoy the bland flavour these go nowhere tomatoes offer up. I still feel the disappointment on my tongue to this day.
Another thing I tell people is find out as much as you can about the plant before you buy or grow it, so you have all the information they need to grow to their very best in your garden. It is a great way to occupy your time in the bleak winter months when you can’t or don’t want to garden in bad weather. But I am going to add to this advice something very important and something I fell victim too this season. I chased the shiny and the exciting with no research at all. Everyone who was anyone was growing it so who was I to do anything other than take it at face value.
I grew a Cinderella Pumpkin, or its official and rather posh name Rouge Vif D’Etampes. Not only did it look cool, everyone was saying it was fabulous. I trusted something I saw on the internet. I should have known better. This is where is gets controversial, so please no scathing comments in the box below.
But us kiwis do pumpkin well! We use it roasted, steamed, mashed, in soups, in salads and even in muffins. Pumpkins are a staple veggie and more often than not found as one of the 3 veggies in the traditional ‘meat and 3 veg.’ We certainly don’t froo froo it up with spices and pretend it is a dessert. It is a hearty veg and should be starchy and full of goodness. Our standard favourites are Crown Pumpkins, Butternut and Buttercup which all offer the requisite amount of flavour, body and texture.
So with great anticipation, although a little premature, as I wanted this pumpkin to be a decorative element for as long as possible because it just looked so cool! But Snowy the Goat took had a munch on her most recent escapade through the garden so I just knew it wouldn’t keep. I cut it open and popped some chunks into the oven to roast.
I’ve never been more disappointed… well maybe it is up there with the Indigo Rose, but it didn’t roast well, and it was not robust in pumpkin flavour and was thin and watery for want of a better description. It didn’t caramelise up like a good crown would… it left me wanting… So I looked it up on the great big internet – I bypassed anyone describing it with a vested interest and when straight to message boards where I found people saying it would be good for soup because it was because it was watery! But just because it tastes like liquid doesn’t necessarily mean it will make great soup. The flavour just doesn’t deliver and I like a robust soup with an almost velvet texture. This would give a cheap polyester texture.
And to make matters worse – it is a big pumpkin and I have 2 of them to get through…. Maybe the goat can have it.
So the lesson for the day is, not only find out how something grows, try to find out how it tastes. Even if it is the latest hot thing on the block. As my mother used to say “if everyone was jumping of a bridge would you do it too?
Come again soon – there is only a month left of autumn until we are plunged in the depths of winter.
Sarah the Gardener : o)