Monday, September 12, 2016

the why-not gardens of 2016

I tried to focus on growing just a few types of vegetable this year, such as pole beans and squash and popcorn. But because there was more room to experiment, I looked through all the not-quite-empty seed packets that have been left after each recent year of gardening, and thought, "Why not just stick a few in here and there? Nothing to lose."

Two of these why-not plantings were the poona kheera cucumbers from India, and the Rouge vif d'Etampes French heirloom pumpkin. The original plantings had germinated poorly, so I planted the now-older seeds - five pumpkin and 36 poona kheera - densely to compensate for low germination.

Well. As near as I could tell, every one of those 41 seeds germinated! One of the pumpkin seeds even got washed away after the other four sprouted, but when poked back into the ground, sprouted and soon caught up to it's cohorts.

young pumpkin plants

One edge of my big garden was soon filled hip-deep with pumpkin leaves and vines. When one vine extended into the Lower West Side goat paddock, I tried to persuade it to turn back before it was too late, was already too late. The goats made short work of that branch; prickly leaves, sticky blossoms, massive stems and all.

Campion is a dedicated gardener. Specialty: pruning.

Three bright yellow pumpkins began to grow: one nearly hidden by popcorn stalks, and two outside the 6-foot perimeter fence above the bank garden. The perimeter fence is also the trellis for all the poona kheera plants, AND for the Georgia Candy Roaster winter squash plants, whose massive leaves tower over the six-foot fence. Quite a lively jungle out there!

poona kheera cucumbers
I picked the largest pumpkin last night, because the pumpkin and it's stem were being damaged by it's weight pressing into the fencing. I don't think it is ripe, but it can be perhaps be steamed and eaten like a summer squash. Although I'd rather roast it for soup or puree...does anyone have any experience with roasting or eating unripe pumpkins? Please do speak up in the comments! This beautiful pumpkin weighs nearly 19 pounds, and I do not want to waste a bit of it!

my first-ever pumpkin!

Not exactly a why-not planting, but do you remember the Suyo Long cucumbers from Tipper's Sow True Seed annual experimental project? Seven of the ten seeds germinated, and I quickly put little collars on to protect them from bad things like cutworms.

suyo seedlings

Since it seemed all seven seedlings were likely to survive, I thinned them by - why not? - moving four plants to a raised bed by the goat barn, to see which conditions the cucumbers might prefer. All seven plants have done well all summer!

They are such interesting cucumber plants. The tiny cucumbers look like this:

baby suyo long cucumber

As they grow, those strange, spiky-looking bright green things become strange, spiky-looking little white nubs. They may look sharp, but they aren't. I've even seen them described as "thorns" but I guess those people have never encountered an actual thorn! These little nubs just brush right off when you run a hand over the cucumber. Or even just your thumb. See?

The suyo cucumbers certainly earn their "long" title, and most of mine were grown on a trellis and have been quite straight. These two examples are each about 20 inches long:

suyo long

suyo also-long

I love the texture of the suyo peel; it is crisp and not bitter at all. A few of the cucumbers got so big the seeds developed so I scraped out those cores as a treat for the hens. I did the same with some of the poona kheera, and those I did peel because the rind is thicker - still not bitter, though! LeShodu, my Matriarch doe, greatly enjoys eating the strips of rind, one by one. I think her teeth may not be as strong as they used to be, so this is a nice way for her to get some soft "bark" without actually having to gnaw on a tree.

The suyo and the poona kheera are both still producing well, and I'm eating lots of cucumber salads - both a savory and a sweet version which I found on this post at The Blind Pig and The Acorn. In fact, I've got a tote full of cucumbers in the kitchen right this minutes, so I'm going to quit nattering and get busy slicing.

Hope your week is beginning well!