Harvest Monday August 29, 2016

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related.  I’ve got lots of stuff to cover so I will get right to it! Winter squash are still coming in here as they mature. I pulled up most of the dead vines to make room for a fall planting of turnips. I’ve got a few plants left growing, but most are done for. In the below photo there’s the Honey Nut Baby Butternut along with a giant Butternut Rugosa (aka Violina Rugosa).  The Butternut Rugosa weighed right at 6 pounds, while the Baby HoneyNut averaged a little over 10 ounces each. Both will need to be stored a bit before we get a taste of them.

Baby Honey Nut and Butternut Rugosa winter squash

Baby Honey Nut and Butternut Rugosa winter squash

The tomatoes are nearing the end but I still managed to harvest over 30 pounds of them last week. Juliet is keeping us well supplied with tomatoes for processing. There’s almost two gallons of them in the colander.

Juliet tomatoes

Juliet tomatoes

The bush paste tomatoes are about done too, but I got a big bucket of them last week. It’s mostly Viva Italia and Health Kick in the below photo, right at 10 pounds of them. We used all the tomatoes to make another batch of Homemade Ketchup, plus a batch of unseasoned tomato sauce. I saved a few out for another project though.

Viva Italia paste tomatoes

Viva Italia paste tomatoes

I ground up the last of the 2015 dried Aji Panca peppers to make a chile powder. Aji Panca is a baccatum pepper with mild heat, and is the second most popular pepper in Peruvian cuisine (behind the Aji Amarillo). The dried peppers are described as having a berrylike, smoky flavor, and I can even detect a hint of coffee or cacao to them. I’m growing it again this year, but the peppers are nowhere near ripe yet. I used some of the paste tomatoes and the ground Aji Panca to make a red enchilada sauce to top a batch of bean enchiladas I cooked up one night. That might not be how the Aji Panca peppers are used in Peru, but they sure made for a tasty enchilada sauce here at HA!

dried Aji Panca peppers

dried Aji Panca peppers

Aji Panca chile powder

Aji Panca chile powder

I harvested two more of the Captain Lucky tomatoes last week. This one has proven to be a new favorite here this summer for sandwiches and for just eating sliced. The vines are still going, and I hope they might put on another flush of fruit for later on.

Captain Lucky tomatoes

Captain Lucky tomatoes

sliced Captain Lucky tomato

sliced Captain Lucky tomato

Eggplants are still coming in too. That’s a pair of Galine in the below photo. We’ve been enjoying them prepared in a number of ways.

Galine eggplant

Galine eggplant

We used one of them to make a grilled eggplant and pesto sandwich. We layered slices of the grilled eggplant with cheese, basil pesto, sliced tomato (Captain Lucky) and a bit of lettuce (from the grocery). The photo doesn’t really do the sandwich justice, but it turned out very tasty and we plan on making it again as long as the eggplant and tomatoes hold out.

grilled eggplant sandwich

grilled eggplant sandwich

I continue to get ripe peppers from the garden, though it’s more of a drip than a deluge. Celia Dulce is a Mexican heirloom pepper that I thought was going to be sweet, given the ‘dulce’ in the name and the description at Dustbowl Seeds, where I ordered them. The peppers turned out pretty spicy though. I sent an email to them asking if this was normal, and they confirmed I have a Not Celia Dulce instead of the real deal. I also think it’s interesting that these peppers are showing the ‘corking’ on the skin that is common on jalapeno peppers. I do think they might be good smoked, which I may do if I get a few more of them or others to make it worth my while to fire up the grill. We will see what happens in the pepper patch the next few days. I could even smoke some green Numex types, of which I have plenty at the moment.

ripe Celia Dulce peppers

ripe Celia Dulce peppers

A real treat last week came to us by way of our friend Jane, who shared some of her paw paw harvest with us. Jane planted her trees a few years before we did, and has been getting fruit for a couple of years now. The two in the below photo come from a Pennsylvania Golden Paw Paw tree, and were very soft and ripe. The Pawpaw is native to eastern parts of the U.S. and southern Canada. The leaves and twigs produce a chemical that serves as a natural insecticide, and the trees are rarely eaten by rabbits or deer. It does take at least two genetically different trees for pollination to occur, and for that reason we have three different varieties planted here: Mango, Wabash and Shenandoah. According to this Purdue University bulletin, the easy to grow trees are rarely bothered by pests, and also serve as a larval host to the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly, so they got that going for them too.

pawpaw fruit

pawpaw fruit

My wife and I had never tasted a pawpaw before, so planting our trees was truly a leap of faith. The taste of the fruit is wonderful and a bit hard to describe. The texture is much like a custard or pudding, very smooth and with a great mouth feel. After cutting the fruit open, we ate the flesh with a spoon, popping the large black seeds in our mouth to get every last bit of flesh. The aroma and taste reminds me of a vanilla/banana pudding, with tropical overtones of mango or perhaps even pineapple thrown in. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our tasting, and thanks again to Jane for sharing some of her precious harvest with us! Now I can’t wait for our own harvests, which should be coming in another  year or two.

inside of pawpaw

inside of pawpaw

another view of the pawpaw

another view of the pawpaw

And speaking of pawpaws, I was checking on our pawpaw trees and pulling a few weeds when I spotted an Eastern Box Turtle snoozing at the base of one tree. My wife and I have had a running joke for years, after she saw a box turtle shortly after we bought the place. She called him Timmy, and the only proof he ever existed was a single photo she managed to get of it and post in a scrapbook. We never saw him again here at HA, or any other turtles for that matter. Anytime I see a turtle anywhere, I am likely to ask “is that Timmy?”, even if it’s on fabric.

Timmy the Turtle in 2007

Timmy the Turtle in 2007

But that changed Saturday when I found Tommy, or maybe Tammy, since I didn’t disturb the turtle enough to ask its name. It was a welcome sight regardless, and a sign that our habitat is appealing to them. Box turtles are long-lived and can even outlive humans, so it could even be the elusive Timmy, but I have to say the markings on the shells of the two turtles really don’t look much alike. Which is even better news – maybe we have TWO box turtles hanging out here!

Tammy the Turtle in 2016

Tammy the Turtle in 2016

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!

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Variety Spotlight: Pepitas Pumpkin

This is the latest in a series of posts that I’ve done about my favorite varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs we grow at Happy Acres. To see my other Spotlights, and those from other garden bloggers, visit the Variety Spotlights page.

Pepitas F1 Pumpkin is a 2016 All-America Selections winner that is certainly aptly named. Most squash and pumpkins have edible seeds, but usually they have a tough outer layer covering the tender edible part inside. The Pepitas Pumpkin has hulless or ‘naked’ seeds that lack the outer hull, making them easier to process and eat. This is my first year growing this new selection, though I have grown a similar variety called Kakai a few years back. Collectively these Cucurbita pepo cultivars are known as oil-seed or Styrian pumpkins, and are grown commercially to produce pumpkin seed oils.

Pepitas Pumpkin

Pepitas Pumpkin

Pepitas Pumpkins grow on rambling vines, and take around 90 days to mature their fruit. My vine produced three pumpkins, the first one ripening almost exactly 90 days from sowing the seed. The pumpkins themselves weighed between seven and eight pounds, and are decorative as well as edible. Each pumpkin had right at a cup of seeds inside, which are fairly easy to remove from the pulp. I have to say I was quite pleased with how Pepitas performed in my garden. I look forward to growing it again next year.

inside of Pepitas Pumpkin

inside of Pepitas Pumpkin

Once the seeds are removed, they can be prepared in a number of ways. They can be roasted in the oven, either as-is or with added ingredients, but I tried keep ours closer to the raw state. I rinsed the seeds in a colander to remove any bits of pulp, then soaked overnight in a salt water solution using a teaspoon of sea salt in a cup of water. In her popular book Nourishing Traditions, author Sally Fallon says that soaking in salt water mimics the Aztec practice of soaking pumpkin seeds in a brine before letting them dry in the hot sun. I find our dehydrator does a good job of drying, and with predictable and controllable results.

seeds from Pepitas Pumpkin

seeds from Pepitas Pumpkin

After draining and rinsing, I spread the soaked seeds out on a dehydrator tray, trying to keep them in a single layer. I set the dehydrator for 115°F and let the seeds dry until they were crispy dry, which took about eight hours. I turned the seeds occasionally, shuffling them around on the tray so they dried evenly. The thin seed covering dries up and can be winnowed away if desired, though it’s edible. The seeds have a great flavor, fresh and not strong like some I have bought. They are addictive, and I don’t think they will be around long enough to test how long they keep!

dried Pepitas seeds

dried Pepitas seeds

The flesh of Pepitas Pumpkin is also edible. I roasted one in the oven, after scooping out all the seeds, and it took about 90 minutes in a 400°F oven to get tender. I pureed the cooked flesh with an immersion blender, and it was not at all stringy after processing. I have to say I generally prefer the C. moschata pumpkins and winter squash for processing into puree, but Pepitas made a mild tasting and smooth puree. Fans of the C. pepo and C. maxima pumpkins and winter squashes should consider giving Pepitas Pumpkin a try both for the seeds and the flesh.

pair of Pepitas Pumpkins

pair of Pepitas Pumpkins

I hope you have enjoyed this Spotlight on a pumpkin that is both edible and ornamental, as well as easy to grow. In 2016 seeds for Pepitas are available from J.W. Jung Seed Company, and from Park Seed Co. I’ll be back soon with another variety.

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