It’s been a long time since my last post, so I thought this would be the perfect time to reflect briefly on some of the more successful aspects of the summer garden. In my next post, I’ll talk about what I’ve been up to around the garden lately.
First, I must report back on the success we had with growing pumpkins over summer. Although they shouldn’t be terribly difficult to grow, we’ve never had a bumper crop and I could never quite work out why. Then I read on my gardening friend Cynthia’s blog (www.thiftykiwi.co.nz) that she lay black plastic on the ground and made holes for each plant. She had the biggest and best crop ever, so I thought I would give it a try myself. After all, I had been doing this with melons every year and found that the plastic helped keep the soil temperature consistently warm. I must say that we have never had such a successful pumpkin season. In total, we harvested around 75 pumpkins – 25 Big Chief Butternut (Kings Seeds), 25 regular Butternut and 25 other pumpkins (mainly a mixture of Blue Hubbard, Queensland Blue and Crown). From now on, I’ll definitely be rolling out the black plastic prior to planting my pumpkins and squash! We have been enjoying pumpkin in a variety of ways – in soup with parsnips from the garden (more on these below), roasted butternut stuffed with feta and as a side accompaniment to meat. The star performer was the variety Big Chief Butternut from Kings Seeds. The vines were extremely prolific and the pumpkins were enormous AND heavy! I’ll definitely be growing this outstanding variety again next season.
Parsnips were another successful crop, following a previous bad season with not one single parsnip having germinated! I sowed these in mid-September, after our early Swift potatoes which were planted on the shortest day were lifted. The seeds were from Egmont and they germinated incredibly well! One little tip when sowing parsnips is to use fresh seed – the fresher, the better. Apparently older seed doesn’t germinate reliably. They were ready in Mid-January, but I left them in the ground until early May and we harvested them as needed. I was flabbergasted by the size of some of our parsnips! They have the reputation for being rather bland but we find ours very flavoursome. Parsnip fries are a favourite, roasted with some sea salt. We have also been enjoying them in mum’s veggie soup and another delicious soup recipe we discovered, featuring pumpkin and parsnip, from Weight Watchers. We shared some parsnips and pumpkin with my aunt and uncle, who live across the road from us, who commented how delicious they both were.
We have also been enjoying NZ Spinach from the seeds I sowed in early summer (Kings Seeds). This is another plant which can be tricky to germinate, but once it gets growing, it simply doesn’t stop. It’s something that I like growing every year. To my knowledge, you can’t purchase plants so if you want to grow it, you’ll have to start plants from seed. One of the things that I like most about NZ Spinach is that you simply snip off what you need; there’s no need to pull out the entire plant. Mum made a pumpkin and spinach lasagne using our veggies from the garden, which was lovely. It’s also delicious steamed. NZ Spinach can be eaten raw. We have been having it every day in our green smoothie and it’s incredibly delicious.
Finally, our banana tree which was planted two years ago by an American couple called Becca and Alex who wwoofed at our place now has fruit on it! We are very excited by this development. You’re supposed to put a bag over the bananas to help them ripen. If you can use a blue bag, it’s supposed to be even better so this is what I used to cover our bananas. You can expect to harvest bananas in spring. The variety in our garden is called Misi Luki and the plant was purchased from Kings Plant Barn in Orakei.