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Posts Tagged ‘neck pumpkin’

Packaging Seeds from my Small Kitchen Garden

I laid out seeds, envelopes, and envelope labels on a table in my billiards room. While I’m giving away Blue Hubbard squash, neck pumpkin, and paste tomato seeds, I also collected seeds from butternut squash, dill weed, and several types of peppers. Most of these will go to The Dinner Garden, a charity that provides seeds to family’s starting gardens in response to economic difficulties.

Two weeks ago, Your Small Kitchen Garden offered up sets of seeds to visitors who asked for them. I’ve been pleased by the response; more than 40 people have left comments requesting seed sets. A complete set includes six seeds of Blue Hubbard squash, six seeds of neck pumpkin, and twenty seeds of chili-pepper-shaped paste tomatoes.

In that post I joked that I’d judge comments on creativity and humor, and I’ve enjoyed the humor in some of the comments. However, the only criteria for receiving seeds are:

  1. Leave a comment explaining which seeds you most want to grow
  2. Complete a “Contact Us” form with your mailing address
  3. Do these things before the seeds run out.

The Small Kitchen Garden Seed Project

I’ve been packaging seeds. To do this, I set up a small table in the corner of my billiards room and laid out all the seeds I saved last season. I designed and printed simple labels and stuck them on coin envelopes. As I started to count out seeds and package them it occurred to me: what if the seeds aren’t viable? I’d feel rotten to learn I’d sent seeds to so many people, and none of those seeds sprouted.

More than a week after planting, one of the three tomato seeds I planted to test viabiity sprouted. By the time I finished this post nearly 2 days later, all three seeds had sprouted. I’m mailing out more than 40 packs of these seeds in the coming week. If you left a comment on my post Free Seeds from Your Small Kitchen Garden, did you also send your mailing address to me via the web site’s Contact Us form? I noticed many visitors overlooked that important step.

So, I test-planted some tomato seeds and waited. Last March, when I started tomato seeds indoors, I had sprouts two days after planting! This January, there were no sprouts for over a week. Finally, on Monday, the first tomato seed sprouted. On Tuesday, two more sprouts appeared. These seeds are viable!

As the cutoff date for my seed giveaway approaches, I’ve packaged up several dozen sets of seeds. I’ve more to package, and I haven’t yet addressed all the envelopes, but I’m confident these seeds will perform when treated properly.

I’m excited to share the seeds; I hope that many of the people who receive them will write once or twice to tell me how their seeds do, and to tell me what they think of the produce they grow.

In the meantime, I’ve already started this year’s small kitchen garden; I’m going to try to keep my tomato seedlings alive indoors until April. I’ll build a tent around them to trap in some moisture and heat, and I’ll flood the tent with light. If things go well, I’ll transplant into larger containers once or twice, so I’ll have very large plants when it’s time to move them outdoors.

By “potting up” the plants this way, I may get a 30-day or better jump on the tomato-growing season. Who knows? Maybe I’ll harvest a few tomatoes in early July this year.

 

 

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Free Seeds from Your Small Kitchen Garden

FREE SEED OFFER HAS EXPIRED. Please note: The next-to-last paragraph in this post reads: This offer is good through February 5, 2010.

This 20 pound neck pumpkin went into canning jars and so far has produced a delicious pumpkin cake. I can’t promise your neck pumpkins will grow so large, but they’ll have a chance if they are offspring of this bad boy.

FREE SEEDS! Your Small Kitchen Garden blog is giving away a bunch of seeds to encourage kitchen gardeners everywhere, and to spread some fun. Do you remember that Neck Pumpkin and the Blue Hubbard squash I wrote about in November and December? Or, maybe you read about the amazing chili-pepper-shaped paste tomatoes I grew in 2009?

While you’re planning your 2010 kitchen garden, consider this: Until I’ve no more to distribute, I’ll mail a modest set of seeds to each person who leaves a qualifying comment in response to this blog post. A seed set will include six Blue Hubbard squash seeds, six Neck Pumpkin seeds, and 20 or more paste tomato seeds. It’s not a lot of seeds, but it should be enough for you to start your own tradition with these squashes and tomatoes (should you decide to do so).

Someone told me they read that a Blue Hubbard squash was the model for the alien pods in one of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers movies. This Blue Hubbard weighed in at 27 pounds. Leave a qualifying comment for a chance to receive six seeds from this squash.

Qualify for a Seed Set

Here’s how to get your seed set: Leave a comment in response to this blog post telling me you want to receive seeds and explaining (in one or two sentences) which of the three plants you most want to grow and why. While your comments will be judged on the basis of creativity and humorousness, the only criterion for selection is the order in which I receive them.

A neighbor has been growing chili-pepper-shaped sauce tomatoes for decades and these are from that family line. The tomatoes are nearly all-meat, and they taste terrific raw. Plants are indeterminate, and fruits can weigh from eight to 16 ounces.

In other words: first-come, first-served. When I run out of complete sets, I’ll send whatever combination of seeds remains until all the seeds are gone. I expect the Blue Hubbard squash seeds to run out first, then the Neck Pumpkin seeds, and finally the sauce tomato seeds, so if you want all three, leave your comment early. Oh, and please keep it at one seed set per person.

Receiving Your Seed Set

Once you leave a comment to this post, use the Contact Us form to drop me a note that includes your snail mail address. Make sure you include the same email address that you use in your comment; I’ll use email addresses to match each Contact Us form to a comment… so if the addresses don’t match, you might not receive your seeds.

This offer is good through February 5, 2010.

My Australian friend who goes by @GardenBy on Twitter brought to my attention that there may be issues with mailing live seeds to international destinations. I once researched import laws of shipping seeds to Australia and was discouraged by what I read (mostly that there was so much to read and interpret and I could never do an adequate job research such issues on a country-by-country basis). So… I regret that I must amend this giveaway with the restriction that I will ship seeds only to people in the United States of America and Canada. Thanks for understanding.

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Exploring Neck Pumpkin at Your Small Kitchen Garden

There’s my big boy neck pumpkin on my large cutting board next to my biggest chef’s knife in front of my KitchenAid stand mixer. (Trying to provide a sense of scale.)

While my small kitchen garden lies dormant for the coming winter, I’ve been exploring winter squash. Always a fan of butternut squash, I planted several hills of it this year, and harvested about 25 pounds of fruits. Some were as small as grapefruits while others were about as large as quart jars. For my family, a one-quart butternut squash lasts for two or three meals.

I visit a farmers’ market nearly every Wednesday, and flea market produce vendors on most Sundays. Every autumn, I see a delightful variety of winter squashes. However, happy with my homegrown butternuts, I’ve never explored these others. Until this year.

In my last post, I described a Blue Hubbard squash, the full 27 pounds of which I purchased for $1.50. That post included a photo of a neck pumpkin that weighed in at a hefty 20 pounds. After two weeks of delays, I finally dissected the neck pumpkin. This is one very impressive squash!

I washed the neck pumpkin thoroughly before I started carving so as not to contaminate the squash’s innards with soil that might have remained from the farm where it grew. I cut sections starting at the neck end, and finally cut the bulbous seed chamber in two. A neck pumpkin is almost solid meat.

Gourds from the Amish

The neck pumpkin goes by many names, among them Pennsylvania Crookneck Squash (according to Cornell University’s web site). They are very common in central Pennsylvania—Amish country—and apparently not so common outside of this area.

Neck pumpkins I’ve seen have been as small as a large butternut squash, and even larger than the 20 pound fruit I bought at the farmers’ market three weeks ago.

I understand that neck pumpkin is ideal for making pumpkin pie. Given its resemblance to butternut squash, I imagined it might also be fine for eating as a side dish… and for cooking up in baked goods and other foods that call for pumpkin as an ingredient.

A simple vegetable peeler easily removes the skin from the neck pumpkin. Of course, such a peeler has trouble on very large expanses of skin; curves of the pumpkin interfere with the ends of the peeler. Cutting the neck pumpkin into small sections would reduce the problems of paring it. With the skin removed, I used my largest chef’s knife to cut the sections into one-inch cubes.

Neck Pumpkin Preparation

The photos in this blog post reveal the steps I took to prepare my neck pumpkin for consumption. Actually, I cooked only a half cup of the squash so I could taste it… the rest I canned in quart jars. The canning operation itself, I explain in my other blog, Your Home Kitchen Garden.

Preparing and storing winter squash offers many options: you can steam, boil, bake, roast, and even dry squash. Use a crock pot, a microwave oven, a stove pot, a conventional oven, a grill… it doesn’t matter. However you cook squash, it gets soft and mashable. For a chunkier side dish, peel and cube it before cooking. To save effort, leave the skin on until after cooking… but by the time you scrape the squash out of its skin, you’re likely to have mashed it up quite a bit.

As with cleaning a pumpkin that I’m about to carve into a jack-o-lantern, I used a spoon to scrape the seeds and their anchoring fibers from the squash’s seed cavity. I set the seeds aside to dry; I’ll be growing neck pumpkins from them in my small kitchen garden next year.

For canning, you create one-inch cubes of raw squash which you blanch for only a few minutes before putting them in jars and cooking in a pressure canner. You can use freshly cubed squash in any squash dish… cook peeled and cubed squash any way you want. Most simply, cover some with water in a pot and cook until soft. Pour off the water, mash the squash with a potato masher, and stir in butter and brown sugar to taste.

If you want to can some squash, please enjoy my squash dissection photos, and then head over to Your Home Kitchen Garden for a step-by-step canning review. This one, 20 pound neck pumpkin filled seven quart jars and left about two cups of pumpkin cubes that I used to make bread.

More about neck pumpkins and som excellent ways to use them:

 

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Blue Hubbard Squash for a Small Kitchen Garden

Two weekends in a row threw so many distractions at me that my gargantuan neck pumpkin sat neglected, cuddling some butternut squash on the rocking chair in my dining room.

Closing down my small kitchen garden for the coming winter seems to have made me a tad crazy for winter squash. I harvested about 28 butternut squashes from my garden, and then went out and bought a neck pumpkin which you can read about here: Neck Pumpkin: a Home Kitchen Garden Marvel.

My plan was to can the neck pumpkin and save seeds so I could grow my own next year. After two false starts, I still had a whole pumpkin on the rocking chair in my dining room… and I brought another wonder squash home from the Sunday flea market.

Blue Hubbard Wonder Squash

This is the first season I’ve noticed Blue Hubbard squash. It really stood out at the flea market where, for the past six or so weeks, there has been a table holding a dwindling supply of these most impressive gourds. Earlier, the price of a Blue Hubbard was enough that I gave it barely a thought. But this past Sunday, the one remaining pod-person Blue Hubbard listed at just $2.

Nothing like a little overkill when you’re trying to get across a simple truth: This Blue Hubbard squash is enormous! 24 inches long, heavier than a large neck pumpkin, and more volume than, perhaps, 20 of the butternut squash I grew in my small kitchen garden this summer. (Some of my butternut squashes were kind of small this year.)

What little I knew about Blue Hubbard squash at that point is that people say it is excellent for use in pies. Shucks. Neck pumpkin is great in pies, and I already had a 20 pounder at home. But only $2 for this amazing-looking squash… I pretty much had no choice; it was going home with me.

When I set hands around the squash to lift it, I realized that the skin near one end was damp and slimy; the Blue Hubbard had started to spoil. No matter; were I to buy a packet of Blue Hubbard squash seeds, I reasoned, I’d spend two dollars. So, even if I find half of this fruit spoiled, I’d be way ahead in the squash department.

The cashier at the farm stand felt bad about the squash’s spoilage, so she marked it down 25%; I paid only $1.50! It was a challenge to carry along with lemons, limes, and a head of cauliflower, and between the checkout counter and my car, three people asked what I was carrying and what I’d do with it. This is a truly remarkable gourd.

Blue Hubbard Squash Awaits

When I got it home, I weighed the Blue Hubbard squash and was astonished to see that it totals 27 pounds. That’s seven pounds more than the neck pumpkin! Of course, with one end rotting, the Blue Hubbard’s finished weight will be substantially less. For that matter, I’ve never seen one of these things opened, so I’ve no idea how thick the flesh is. Perhaps there’s only an inch of meat… or maybe the meat goes nearly to the center and there’s only a tiny ball of seeds.

Whatever the case, I’m keeping the seeds and planting some next July along with seeds from the neck pumpkin and others from this year’s butternut squash. I’m excited to explore this Blue Hubbard monster, and I’ll share the experience here.

These look like some excellent ways to use winter squash; Blue Hubbard should work just fine:

  • Blue Hubbard Squash Casserole « Local Nourishment – I saw a blue hubbard squash at the pumpkin patch we went to over the weekend. I too was kind of weary of it because it was so large and not sure what to do with it. I love the idea of replacing it for sweet potatoes (especially since I …

  • roasted winter squash soup with croutons – what can be more comforting than a bowl of creamy soup on a cold day? when the weather starts to turn a little chilly, i start making soups and this was my first one this month. roasting the acorn and butternut squash brings out a …

  • Winter Squash | MattBites.com – And if you’ll excuse me for saying this, sometimes they look as if they landed on earth from outer space. A few years ago I made it a point to familiarize myself with these hefty gourds. Until that point they were only gorgeous table decorations to me (trés gay, I know I know), and also made nice ammo during food fights.

  • Organic Baby Food-Steamed Winter Squash – This quick video shows how to make organic baby food from steamed winter squash.

 

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