Neck Pumpkins! These are common in central Pennsylvania, but rare elsewhere. I hope you’ll enter the giveaway and introduce these amazing squashes to another part of the US. Enthusiasts love these for pumpkin pie.
Regular visitors to Your Small Kitchen Garden know that I’ve been very distracted by my dad’s house in Ithaca. Still, I grew a lot of produce in 2013 and I want to share. As in past years, I’m giving away seeds!
I’m most excited about the unique paste tomatoes I grow and about the neck pumpkins. This year, I’m giving away seeds to grow those and sweet Italian peppers (as I did last year). As well, I’ll include “mystery tomatoes.” The box titled Mystery Tomatoes? explains my motivation for this… but don’t worry, I’ll label whatever type of tomato seeds I send. Find the box titled, What Might You Get? to learn more about the seeds I’m giving away.
Here’s how the giveaway works:
I’ll organize seeds into “sets.” A set includes all types of seeds in the What Might You Get? box. I’ll create a mailing list sorted according to the rules listed below and I’ll mail complete sets of seeds to each name on the list (from top-to-bottom) until I run out of a type of seed. Then, I’ll mail partial sets having whatever types of seeds remain until I run out of seeds or mail to everyone on the list. It looks as though I’ll have at least 50 seed sets to mail, so please don’t be discouraged if you see a lot of entries.
I was relieved that seeds I gave away last year did, indeed produce gorgeous sweet red peppers. I’m planting these again in 2014 and I’m confident you’d be pleased if you planted some too.
Here are the rules:
1. The giveaway ends at midnight on Friday, February 21. No new entries or mailing list “bumps” are valid after that date.
2. To get on the mailing list, comment on this blog post using the comment form here. Please include a story about your gardening experiences that makes me laugh.
3. Use this link to send an email containing your snail mail address AND the email address you use when you leave your comment. If you expect to “bump” your entry (explained below), include your twitter name and/or facebook name in the email so I can identify when you bump. If you’ll be posting about the giveaway on your blog, include the blog’s URL in your email so I can give you appropriate credit (again: see below).
These could be Cornue Des Andes tomatoes (not yet ripe). Whatever the variety, they’re delicious raw, great for canning, and I’m giving away seeds so you can grow some.
Completing items 2 and 3, gets you onto the very end of my mailing list. All things being equal, I’d deliver first-come-first served until the seeds are gone. But not so fast! You can improve your position on the list according to the following:
4. Tweet a link to this giveaway (on Twitter) that includes the hash tag #skgseeds.
5. Post a link to this giveaway on Facebook and include the hash tag #skgseeds.
6. Post a link to this giveaway on Google+ and include the hash tag #skgseeds.
A single daily post on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ moves you up one space on the mailing list. So, posting on all three services in a day moves you up three slots; you cannot move up more than three slots in a day except for a one-time bump explained in item 7:
7. Pin the photo from the top of this post that includes the Seed Giveaway title. Include the #skgseeds hash tag in the pin’s description and you’ll move up 2 slots on the mailing list. THIS IS A one-time bump. While I’d love for you to pin the photo on multiple boards, I’ll count only a single pinning within the giveaway period toward your position on the mailing list.
I’ll monitor the #skgseeds hash tag on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. If I can match your posts to the email address in your original comment on this blog, you’ll move up the mailing list.
8. Here’s a shortcut: mention my giveaway on your blog and invite your readers to participate, and you receive instant gratitude. Also, I’ll move you to the front of the mailing list after any other bloggers who have already posted on their blogs. I’ll mail to all bloggers (in the order that they post) before I mail to anyone else on the list.
At Least Get on the List!
Don’t be overwhelmed by the options. At least leave a comment and email your snail mail address (items 2 and 3). TO RECEIVE SEEDS, YOU MUST LEAVE A COMMENT THAT INCLUDES A POSTAL ADDRESS! You’re likely to get some seeds (though, when I run out of these types of seeds, if I haven’t gotten to your name on the list, you won’t receive any). Last year I was able to mail to everyone who entered the giveaway (correctly)—more than 50 people.
During the growing season, please give me an update or two (with photos) of how the seeds are working out. I’ll share your updates with my readers.
This giveaway is open only to people in the United States and Canada.
I grew several tomato varieties in 2013 that made me happy without necessarily winning me over. Actually, White Queen and Moonglow were carryovers from 2012. Stupice, Indigo Rose, Mortgage Lifter, and Dutchman were new to me. My favorite in this list is Moonglow, though Stupice and Indigo Rose were the most successful in the garden. A seed set will contain 8 seeds from one of these varieties (my choice). From the top-left going clockwise: White Queen (fully ripe), Indigo Rose (fully ripe), Mortgage Lifter (ripens red), Moonglow (ripe), Stupice (nearly ripe; I understand you’re supposed to pronounce this as stew-peach-kay), Dutchman (ripens red; supposedly one Dutchman can grow to 7 lbs). Indigo Rose and Stupice tomatoes are about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter – marginally bigger than a typical cherry tomato.
I harvested this fully-mature zucchini just before frost in late October or early November. It has lived with my winter squash for about three months and shows no sign of decay. Its durability has made it clear: We choose to call zucchini summer squash when, in fact, it works just as well as winter squash.
Having been very distracted from my small kitchen garden last season, I let a few things get away from me. Perhaps the biggest of those things were zucchini.
My single hill of zucchini vines (three plants, one starting pot) was producing by August 1st. We consumed, perhaps, three fruits through the growing season. By mid September, one squash had grown large and stalled; a clear sign it was no longer fit to eat. I harvested it and set it in the house figuring I’d collect the seeds to plant in the coming year. A second squash that would have been fine eating in late September maxed out and joined the first as a likely seed-donor. Then I got really distracted.
The zucchini in this photo dates back to September of 2013, making it about four months since harvest. This one has turned yellow and it’s kind of soft; I can bend it easily and it “gives” when I press on it. Still, if I were relying on a store of such squashes to get me through the winter, this would look pretty good for a meal or two.
By the time frost was inevitable in late October (or was it November?), there was one last humongous zucchini on the vines. I harvested it before the freeze along with more than a hundred pounds of winter squash and stacked them all on a chair in the dining room. There they remained until Thanksgiving at which point I moved them onto the sofa bed in my office.
Zucchini and Winter Squash
I’ve written several times about the amazing durability of winter squash and how you can store it effectively by rolling it under a bed in a seldom-used guest room. I’ve had both blue hubbard squash and neck pumpkins remain in near perfect condition for as long as 13 months when stored in that manner. Zucchini, I’d always understood, was a wimpy cousin of winter squash that we have to use when it’s young. I now understand that growing zucchini as summer squash is a choice and nothing more.
As I would with any winter squash, I peeled the skin from the zucchini, cut it open, and scooped out the seeds. This left about ¾ of an inch of only slightly soft fruit that smelled like fresh vegetable. Everything about the prepared zucchini qualified it as food.
Here, near the end of January, the three zucchinis I harvested in September and October are still in decent shape. In fact, the last one I harvested is indistinguishable from the day I brought it inside!
During the long “cold-storage” of my zucchinis, two of them have changed from deep green to squash yellow. The oldest zucchini had started to soften about a month ago, but it had virtually no other signs of decay.
Would You Eat a Four-Month Old Zucchini?
I butchered the oldest zucchini today and found it in terrific condition. I sautéd some with onions, tomatoes, and Italian seasonings, and it was fine (see below). It didn’t soften in cooking the way young zucchini does, but it softened and behaved in all other respects like zucchini: It brought virtually no flavor of its own to the dish and it added vegetable bulk. This mature, cold-stored summer squash was a bit like having a new vegetable to use in cooking—and it would certainly shred appropriately for use in breads, cakes, and other baked goods… but I don’t need more shredded zucchini; I froze plenty of it in-season!
Bottom line: If you’re overrun with zucchini in-season, let a bunch mature on the vines and harvest them just before frost. Store them as you would winter squash, and you’ll have another great (unexpected) winter vegetable.
I cut the squash into cubes and sautéd them in olive oil along with onions and canned tomatoes (from my garden). I added a touch of white wine, salt, pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, and crushed red peppers and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Young zuke in summer would have been mushy by then. This well-aged zucchini turned translucent but it remained firm. I’m not a fan of zucchini to begin with, and this tasted every bit as good as any zucchini I’ve ever sautéd.
It was love at first sight when I came upon this display at a farmers’ market. A fully ripe Fairytale Squash is light brown like the one on the left under the halved squash in the photo. I harvested all my Fairytale squashes green this autumn. Fortunately, winter squashes are usually happy to ripen off the vine if you store them someplace warm.
How much squash could you use in a year? Five pounds? Twenty five? How about one hundred pounds of rich, delicious, orange goodness? Back in January I explained how easy it is to grow winter squash. I’m telling you now: with a single hill of the right variety of squash, you can grow 100 pounds or more!
Really Big Squash
I once bought a 27 pound Blue Hubbard squash along with a 20 pound Neck Pumpkin and shared stories about them on this blog. Articles about them included the following:
- Blue Hubbard Squash for a Small Kitchen Garden
- Exploring Neck Pumpkin at Your Small Kitchen Garden
- Freeze Winter Squash from Your Small Kitchen Garden
These squashes were so large, I hold the farmer who grew them in high esteem; I expected never to grow such large squashes. Then I fell in love with Fairytale Squash.
Fairytales Come True
Last autumn, the farmer who had sold me my giant Blue Hubbard and Neck Pumpkin put together a display that included a Fairytale squash sliced open. It was gorgeous! I took a lot of photos and, as winter set in, I bought a Fairytale squash at a fire sale price.
The largest squash I’d dealt with were a Blue Hubbard (27 lbs) and a Neck Pumpkin (20 lbs) I’d bought at a farmers’ market. Neck Pumpkins I grow each year are descended from that original 20 pounder.
Sadly, I never tasted that squash. It got soft very quickly after I bought it, so I ended up harvesting the seeds and composting the rest of it. Honestly, the squash was in bad shape when I bought it; from the get-go I had wanted it for its seeds.
This spring, I planted a single hill of seeds from that Fairytale squash—four seeds started in June and transferred to the garden in July. In about a month, those four plants had taken over half the space I’d reserved for winter squashes; they were crowding out a hill of Butternuts and a hill of Neck Pumpkins (as well as three hills of pickles, my entire carrot patch, and two rows of bush beans).
About a month after planting, a single hill of Fairytale Squash had overtaken a 14 foot long, four foot high trellis. This is was massive growth, though still immature; it hadn’t yet produced blossoms. Eventually, the vines filled twice the volume they do in this photo and produced 5 large fruits. Because I planted late, I lost several very young fruits to autumn’s first frost.
By the end of August, I was hacking off the ends of some Fairytale Squash vines and training others back on themselves. When fruits finally set, I marveled at how large they grew and despaired just a little that they never ripened from dark green to the soft brown I’d seen at the farmers’ market.
Finally, after the first frost, I harvested the unripe Fairytale Squashes and moved them into our dining room where I figured warmth would help them along. There are at least five of these beauties, the smallest of which is over 15 pounds. The largest is a full 33 pounds! This single hill, starting very late in the season, produced more than 100 pounds of food! Had I planted a month or two earlier, it might have produce far more.
Want 100 pounds of winter squash? You can grow that!
The dining room provides a warm environment for my Fairytale Squashes to ripen. The stack weights, perhaps, 90 pounds, and there’s one more squash on the piano bench.
Find more You Can Grow That! posts here: www.youcangrowthat.com.
I needed about 10 of my homegrown, late-season pak choi plants to come anywhere close to the amount I’d have gotten from a single commercially-grown plant. Still, it made a great stir-fry.
Honestly, I thought I’d harvested my last of the season. Two or three weeks ago I brought in all the peppers and winter squash. Last week I dug the remaining sweet potatoes. I even buried most of the main planting bed under 18 inches of autumn leaves. And then there was a dinner pinch.
The full breadth of my meal-planning this month has been, “shop from the freezer.” With Christmas nigh, my wife will want freezer space to stockpile home baked cookies so I’ll try to use something from our freezer in every dinner I prepare until Christmas.
Finding a pack of round steaks sparked thoughts of stir fry. A simple beef and vegetable dish would take little time to prepare and it wouldn’t be a problem to zip to a market for some broccoli or cauliflower. But wait! What about the pak choi?
After I’d pulled the onions in late August or early September, I had planted pak choi seeds in their place. Sprouts appeared quickly, but cloudy, cold weather has kept growth slow. Supposedly, pak choi (also known as bok choy, pak choy, and bok choi) matures in about 30 days. This Post Produce is at least 45 days past sowing and it took about ten of my plants to equal what you’d get from one commercially-grown plant.
Not a big deal. It’s very satisfying to have harvested anything edible this late in November. My pak choi has thrived through the season-killing frost and at least half a dozen below-freezing nights. The coldest night bottomed out at about 24F degrees but the plants look great (except for some holes chewed through the leaves).
The Stir Fry
There’s nothing amazing about the stir fry—except that it tasted great. When I prepared marinade for the beef, I discovered we had no soy sauce (I was dumbfounded); I used oyster sauce to season the dish.
1 lb beef cut into bite-sized pieces
2 t grated fresh ginger (divided)
1 t onion powder
¼ cup oyster sauce
¼ cup white cooking (or other) wine
½ to 1 t Siracha Hot Chili Sauce
1 large fresh sweet pepper cored, de-seeded, and cut into bite-sized pieces (I used a sweet Italian pepper because I’m still working through what I harvested, but a bell pepper would work nicely)
1 medium onion peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 mature head of pak choi or equivalent cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces (seriously: peel apart the stalks of the plants and rinse them thoroughly.)
cooking oil for frying
1½ cups chicken stock
~1 T corn starch
Combine the first six ingredients in a bowl or zipper-topped plastic bag. Mix thoroughly and make sure all the meat is submerged in the liquid. Set this in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, but overnight is better.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or frying pan and tilt the pan to coat its bottom and sides. When the oil is very hot, fish the beef out of the marinade (save the marinade) and put the beef into the hot pan. Stir the beef to keep it from sticking or burning and cook it through—this could take 7 to 10 minutes, depending on how well your stove heats the pan.
Pour the beef and pan juices into a bowl and set them aside. Scrape the pan relatively clean, add 2 more tablespoons of oil, and return the pan to the stove. Tilt the pan to coat it, let it become very hot, and then add the onion pieces. Stir to keep the onion from burning and, when the pieces become translucent, reduce the heat to medium.
Add the ginger, stir it through, and immediately add the cut up sweet pepper. Stir for 3 to 5 minutes, add the pak choi, and stir to coat everything with the hot oil.
Pour the reserved marinade into the wok and stir to coat all the vegetable pieces with the marinade. Cook until the liquid starts to boil and add 1 cup of the chicken stock; bring it back to a boil.
Return the beef to the pan and stir it together with the vegetables until the liquid boils. In the meantime, stir a tablespoon of cornstarch into the remaining chicken stock and stir that mixture into the cooking vegetables and beef. The liquid should thicken rather quickly at which point the stir fry is ready to serve. I served mine with rice.
If we get a few more warm days, I may get another decent harvest of pak choi this year. Seems more likely this was my actual final harve
Now You Post Produce!
What are you eating from your garden? Post about it on your blog and then link to it from the widget below:
Quince are naturally fuzzy, but it seems almost as though the fuzz isn’t attached. You could wipe each fruit with a cloth, but the fuzz washes off easily in water.
Making quince candy is an easy and delicious way to use those quinces you just got too tired of processing into jelly. Quince candy is a popular treat in Croatia and Serbia where people call it Kotonjata, and in Spain where it goes by the name Dulce de Membrillo.
The Steps to Quince Candy
Start by washing the quince to remove the fuzz. You could wipe them with a cloth, but giving them a quick bath in cold water is efficient.
Chop the quince into quarters and then cut the quarters into two or three pieces each. Remove any bad spots, of course. Most recipes say to peel and core the quince. This is difficult and dangerous and not worth the effort. Just chopping a quince is a challenge; quince is one tough fruit.
Put the pieces in a pot and cover them with water. Cover the pot and bring it to a simmer. Cook until you can easily slide a fork through the pieces and they are soft enough to mash. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool.
When the quince is cool enough to handle safely, run it through the medium screen of a food strainer or a food mill. Clean the strainer, switch to the fine screen, and strain the quince pulp again to get rid of the skins, seeds, and other parts that didn’t turn to mush (with a food mill, this step might not be an option, so just skip ahead). There may be dark flecks in the pulp but these are harmless and won’t show in the finished product.
For every cup of quince pulp, stir in a half cup of sugar. Most recipes call for a whole cup of sugar, but quince is sweet enough it doesn’t need so much. Put the sweetened pulp into your slow cooker, cover it, and cook it on high until it starts to bubble around the edges. Remove the cover and continue to cook on high, stirring periodically (see the box titled Slow-Cooking Quince Candy).
What you want is a very thick paste. You should be able to drag your spoon across the bottom of the slow cooker and leave a trail revealing the bottom of the pot. When your quince reaches this point, it is done. Turn off the heat and let the paste cool to a safe handling temperature.
Choose a baking dish or other pan of a size that your quince paste will fill to a depth of half to three quarters of an inch. Line the pan with parchment paper and pour your warm quince paste into it. Spread the paste in an even layer and let it cool overnight.
After milling to remove seeds, stems, skin, and other hard parts; after hours of slow-cooking; and after setting to cool for hours; your quince candy should be one giant, flat, soft “gumdrop.”
The quince candy should set to the consistency of a soft gumdrop. If it’s too soft, re-melt it in the slow cooker and cook and cook.
If your candy is properly gummy, turn it out onto a piece of parchment paper and cut it into any shapes you like with a thin bladed knife. I cut it into half inch strips and then cut the strips into inch long rectangles. Toss the pieces in a bowl of granulated sugar. The sugar is for more than sweetness: it helps keep the pieces from sticking together and it helps prevent mold. If your candy is too moist and you find that the sugar is dissolving or there is moisture gathering at the bottom of your storage container, you didn’t cook the quince paste down enough. You can place the pieces in a food dehydrator on low heat to dry it further, but be careful not to melt it. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you should return all the pieces to your slow cooker and cook it some more.
When you make your own candy, you can cut it into whatever shapes please you. Making rectangles is easy and it assures some uniformity among the pieces. After you cut up the candy, toss the pieces in granulated sugar. This final coating helps prevent spoilage and makes the candy less sticky to the touch.
Uses and Variations for Quince Candy
The candy keeps well for up to six months in an airtight tin or jar. You can refrigerate or freeze it if you need a longer storage time.
If you want, add spices to the sugar with which you coat the candy. Cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom are all nice, as is vanilla. I’m partial to the cardamom.
These candies would be great in “thumb print” butter cookies where you put a dab of jam in the center. They’d also be good dipped in chocolate.
I like them just fine plain.
Kris Gasteiger is the owner and operator of White Oaks Farm in Levels, West Virginia. Click here to reach him via email: Kris at White Oaks Farm.
Between home and Ithaca (which is three hours north), one of my earliest autumn images comes from my front yard. Leaves on the maple tree there have been changing from green to flaming red and yellow since late August.
I’m challenged this year to keep my preserving and gardening in order. I’ve many apples needing to go into canning jars and at least two dozen perennials needing to get their roots into the ground. Ironically, because I’m distracted by obligations in Ithaca, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to enjoy the changing seasons.
Autumn has unfolded very slowly this year. We saw the first fall colors in August, and even in early November many trees are holding gorgeous yellow, orange, and red leaves. Between Lewisburg (home) and Ithaca (my dad’s home), I’ve taken many detours onto country roads to capture hillsides, valleys, and stands of trees. I hope you enjoy the sampling in this post.
On the east side of route 13 south of Ithaca stands a well-weathered barn near a wooded hillside. I’ve stopped along the road several times to capture photos.
An unlikely exit off of route 15 in northern Pennsylvania got me onto a side road with views to the north, east, and south. Here I aimed across route 15 to the northeast, capturing a small splash of autumn color in the foreground, and a sea of changing trees stretching to a row of windmills on a distant ridge.
While blatant autumn flare draws my attention, subtle fall colors also get me jazzed. An ancient oak flexing in the woods above Cayuga Lake provides engaging counterpoint to the blaze of colors peeking out from behind.
Trees naturally change colors and textures in autumn, and farm fields change along with them. The margins between crops produce visual interest, and the juxtaposition of human-tall, cylindrical hay bales add whimsy. Over the years I’ve photographed almost as many of these giant bales as I have tomato blossoms.
One of my favorite autumn scenes emerges after the first serious frost of the season: cucurbit vines die and shrivel to the ground within hours leaving pumpkins high and dry. Usually by this point there’s not much demand for pumpkins; I shot this scene just three days before Halloween. These orange globes will probably feed someone’s hogs.
I’ve had a terrific harvest of purple jalapeno peppers, though I let most of the peppers ripen to bright red rather than picking them purple. Serious cold in the next two days will quite likely end the pepper season.
October 22, 2013 is nearly done and I’m only now writing my Post Produce post. Life continues to be crazy with periodic travels to Ithaca, but it’s crazier still as the end of gardening season approaches.
Sadly, my tomato plants succumbed to late blight and I lost at least a bushel of tomatoes. While that happened, I harvested and froze beans from my garden, bought grapes from the farmers’ market to make jelly, froze locally-grown sweet corn, canned “bread & butter pickle” pears, put up a few jars of tomato sauce (from tomatoes that hadn’t yet developed blight blemishes), bought tomatoes from a local farmer to make salsa, and seriously enjoyed my pepper harvest.
Peppers Going Strong
My pepper plants have struggled through a rather cool growing season. Still, they’ve managed to grow a reasonable amount of ripe fruit.
I harvested seeds from sweet Italian peppers I’d bought last year at a farmers’ market. I gave away most of the seeds, but started several for myself and grew three plants. Those plants have been prolific, and the peppers are perfect.
To assure I’d have a full batch of red pepper relish to give my mother-in-law, I bought a dozen red bell peppers at a farm market. At the same time, I harvested eight perfectly orange bell peppers from my garden. My mother-in-law gets nine 4oz jars of red pepper relish, and I’ve put away six jars of orange pepper relish. I also made bean salad dressing from the same peppers.
I harvested about a dozen sweet Italian peppers and used most of them in salsa: canned 34 8oz jars of the stuff. I also used about eight red-ripe jalapeno peppers in the salsa.
There are quite a few more peppers to harvest, and nighttime temperatures are pushing into the low 30s this week. I’ll probably harvest the remaining peppers, and there are lots of lima beans I’ll need to pick, ready-or-not.
Now You Post Produce!
What are you harvesting from your kitchen garden? Post about it on your own blog. Then find the linky widget at the end of this post and create a link to your Post Produce post.
Success with orange bell peppers this year has me thinking of growing a bell pepper rainbow next season. I’ll have to do some research: how many colors of bell peppers are available?