Pumpkins

My neighbour dropped over a few months ago and brought me three little baby pumpkins seedlings that had self sown in her compost heap. I planted them determined to give pumpkin growing one last shot. I have never had much luck with growing pumpkin in the past just getting lacklustre vines and no fruit. It was a little frustrating as I had read that early settlers in America would plant them and pretty much leave them alone and still get a crop. So…I knew I was doing something wrong.

This time around I prepared the soil really well with compost, cow manure, gypsum (I have heavy clay soil) and some organic fertiliser pellets. I soaked the roots in a dilution of Seasol (seaweed fertiliser) and water. I find this helps all my seedlings get off to a good start. Then I planted them and covered the soil around the plant with lucerne hay.

Once the plant got going I pinched out the first two runners from the main lead runner. This is supposed to stimulate the plant so that you get a good mix of male and female flowers. Only one seedling survived as we had some pretty hot spells in a row and I am not all that great at watering. That one little seedling has now taken over the garden and has heaps of fruit on it as you can see from the picture below.

pumpkin compost

Feeling confident about my pumpkin growing now I decided to finally plant the giant pumpkin seeds I have been hanging onto for a while. I’m not sure how they’ll go but for now I’ll be enjoying the butternuts as they ripen.

With the first pumpkin that ripened I gave it to the neighbour who gave me the seedling. The second one to ripen I made pumpkin soup. I picked the fruit a little early. Apparently, it is better to wait until the vine starts to die off and wither, then you can be sure the fruit is ripe. The one I picked was still a little green on the skin where it attached to the vine, but it was still pretty tasty.

Curing them in the sun to harden off the skin is supposed to help them keep for longer storage. Some ways to eat pumpkin are in soup, baked, and used as a sweetener. All parts of the plant are edible and the ends can be pinched off and cooked in a stew.

Eggplant and tomatoes

This is the best time of year to eat eggplants and tomatoes. Eggplants somehow like being punished by the long hot Adelaide summer. A few hills dwellers have told me they don’t have much luck with eggplants but they do grow really well on the Adelaide Plains. Tomatoes are also in abundance. I came across this dish at a local restaurant specialising in food from Afghanistan. This dish brings all the great flavours of summer together. It also uses South Australian produce in season and at it’s best – eggplants, tomatoes, olive oil, chili, garlic, coriander.

Borani Banjan

2 large eggplants sliced length ways into 1cm slices

1/4 cup extra virgin oil

1 cup sliced tomatoes

4 cloves crushed garlic

2 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon tumeric

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 fresh chili minced

salt & pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock

1 cup coriander finely chopped

greek style yogurt (optional)

dried powdered mint (optional)

Prepare the eggplant first by placing slices of eggplant on a baking tray. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in oven at 180C until the eggplant is starting to soften.

While the eggplant is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in small pan on medium heat. Add garlic and soften for a minute.

Add spices and cook for another minute. Add tomato paste and cook for another minute.

Add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil then simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Then layer the ingredients like a lasagna in a baking dish. Add sauce first, then half the eggplant, then half the coriander, then all the tomatoes. Top with the egplant and rest of coriander. Finish by drizzling rest of sauce so it coats the eggplant.

Bake for 45 mins. Traditionally it is served with a drizzle of yogurt and dried mint. Serve with brown lentils and rice.