Fruit

There are some fruit that we all associate with late autumn, most notably pumpkins and winter squashes, which are harvested after the last apples and pears have fallen.

Winter squash harvest

We had a reasonable, if unremarkable, harvest this year. Two medium-sized Crown Prince, with their steely skins and rich orange flesh, and two rather less evenly distributed fruits of Musquee de Provence, with their shiny dark green segmented skin. The larger of the two is the most enormous squash we have ever grown ourselves; I have no idea of its weight, as it sends our kitchen scales into panic – somewhere over 5kg then. There were no warty Marina di Chioggia this year, though we did plant one, and just one tiny Turks Turban, still greeny-brown rather than its usual brilliant orange.

Home grown butternut squashes

Another comedy duo came in the form of butternut squashes. We grew these more out of stubbornness than any real ambition, as they seem to fare particularly poorly for us, and so I did not track which variety actually gave us these fine fruits; we sowed Butterboy and one other, possibly Harrier. The larger one weighs in at 1.3kg, a very respectable fruit, while its sibling will make a small accompaniment on our plates, perhaps stuffed with spiced rice…

Not exceptional, but pleasing nonetheless. We grow all our squashes for flavour, and shouldn’t be disappointed with this haul. These have been hardening off in the greenhouse for some weeks; now with temperatures dropping towards freezing we have brought them into the house to store in a cool cupboard and enjoy through the winter.

Cucumber and tomato harvested late November from unheated greenhouse

It is such a treat, still, to be able to pick from the last ripening crops in our unheated greenhouse. A ‘Shirley’ tomato and a ‘Crystal Apple’ cucumber – the latter much smaller than its summer counterparts, but still unbelievably crisp and sweet – chopped into a soft tortilla with roast chicken and a little mayonnaise made a lovely wrap for lunch.

Chopped cucumber and tomato in tortilla wrap

At the feet of the vines in the greenhouse from which we are squeezing these last treasures, the marigolds (which seem to have done a sterling job to prevent a return of the aphids we suffered last year in their absence) are still flourishing.

End of season tagetes

You could almost forget that December is just around the corner!

Outside, the alpine strawberries are also flouting the season, producing ripe red fruits that are an unexpected pleasure amid the fallen leaves.

Fruit of alpine strawberries in November

And while the dahlias are finally faltering, the fuchsias continue to flower as though it were mid-summer.

Fuchsia flowers

Their vivid magenta and purple flowers make an unusual companion to the autumn colours elsewhere through the garden, such as the little butterfly acer which is still holding on to most of its leaves.

Acer foliage in late November

There are still one or two tender plants in containers that I must unearth and move into the greenhouse for the winter, along with the dahlias to lift or mulch; after some busy weekends away, I hope to find an opportunity soon before the frosts beat me to it.

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13 thoughts on “Fruit

  1. I love growing squash but they can be hit and miss. We grew Sweet Dumpling which were easy and quite prolific. Small fruit and very sweet. Possibly too sweet for some. I have heard butternuts are difficult in the UK although I have seen some varieties which say they have been bred especially for growing in Britain. I think it might have been in the Organic Gardening Catalogue. My fave is uchiki kuri although it’s never very prolific for us.

    Would you recommend the crystal apple cucumber and did you grow it in your greenhouse? I tried last year but they were all got by slugs and I didn’t get round to trying them this year.

    • I think butternuts tend to have a longer growing season than many varieties of squash, making them hard to grow reliably with our short summers. These – well the one really – have done well to beat the odds this year.

      I’d really recommend the crystal apple cucumber – we did grow them in the greenhouse, planted directly in the ground. They have given us prolific crops, with unbeatable crispness and flavour, and are a good size for the two of us to share – or for one if you pick them smaller. One of ours was slower to get going, but is obviously still giving us crops now, so I’d be tempted to sow a second batch next year to try and repeat this!

  2. Butternut squash have always been successful for me; they were the variety I grew on my allotment in the UK and this year I decided to try them here, they were ripe by the beginning of August and produced very well, I intend growing more squash than courgettes next year as I will then have more to eat in the winter.

    • You have done well, they haven’t seemed to like our heavy soil, not cropping as heavily as other varieties or often reaching maturity. It is a particular bonus of winter squash that they store well.

  3. Hilarious contrast in squash size, but yum yum… I never had any luck with butternut, and it has always seemed that the more complicated the shape – and hence harder to peal – the squash is the tastier the resulting flesh! Lovely haul, your tomatoes out lasted mine, which succumbed to something nasty. Not blight, but nasty anyway! I do still have marigolds flowering away though. Hope the weather is kind to you at the weekend! I remember when I worked full time it always seemed as if there was a consiracy at this time of year to ensure that all the lovely days fell in the week, saving the worst weather for the weekend!

    • I think we had some free seeds for sweet dumpling, which I nearly sowed… we may try one next year! I’m pleased with our crop though we have had a better ratio of fruits per plant before! When we open the massive one, we’ll be eating squash for weeks!

  4. Nearly missed this post – interesting reading about your squash as mine have done OK and it is one of the things I will continue with next year so I shall take note of your successes.

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