With temperatures plummeting and squalls of rain dominating the late bursts of sunshine, it was time to harvest our winter squash.
I cut the fruits from their vines, being careful to leave T-bar stalk handles to try and minimise rotting back into the fruits. This year I had to fight for the space to grow squashes, securing a 3m by 3m area where I could grow 9 plants allowing each a metre to roam – with sweetcorn planted in a grid among them.
After last year’s glut from three courgette plants, as the sole courgette lover in our household, I planted out just one this year, along with a yellow scallop for variety. It was a strange year for all the squashes; the courgette was not as abundant as last year’s but did at least keep me with a slow feed of fruits after a late start. From the patty pan squash I have harvested just one fruit all summer – I shall not give up precious space for one of those again!
And the winter squashes have been sadly disappointing after last year’s harvest. The single pumpkin only had one small fruit, which I accidentally knocked off a few weeks’ ago. It did not go to waste, as I quickly cut it into chunks and roasted it, and it was probably too late in the season to grow much more anyway. The Crown Prince which performed so well for us last year did not give us any harvest this year – another redundant plant.
I had high expectations of the Cornell’s Bush Delicata, and while we have one beautiful stripy fruit, it is very small, only weighing a couple of hundred grammes, and rather lonely.
Our most bountiful harvest has been from the Turk’s Turban – 4 decent fruits from two plants, most 2kg or above; a respectable crop but I would have hoped for at least 3 squash from each. However they are just as beautiful as I hoped; I love their gnarled bottoms and rich autumn colours, and they seem robust.
We also harvested two decent squashes from the Marina di Chioggia plants – presumably one from each; with the tangle of limbs across the plot it did become rather hard to tell. They have a beautiful dark green mottled colour, although their skin is smoother than the warty nobbles I was expecting. One is a whopper, weighing in over 5kg, while the other is still around the 2kg mark.
Despite my grumbling, it has been a strange year for many of the vegetables on our plot this year, and with others reporting that their squashes and pumpkins have simply rotted away, we are grateful for our modest harvest. The fruits are now curing on the potting bench in the greenhouse, soaking up the last rays of sunshine.
I look forward to tasting these three new varieties, and if they match their reputations in flavour then I shall give them another chance next year, and hope for better weather and more fruit!
Here’s hoping for a few more weeks of sunshine to dry their skins so that we may enjoy them throughout the winter. They are certainly one of the most attractive harvests of the year.
Now it’s time to take up the fight again for their space in the kitchen garden next year – I suspect that I will be down to just six plants on six squared metres next year, so I must choose varieties that are really going to work for us.