Friday, 29 July 2011

Passion for growing cucurbits


Every year I fall in love with my cucurbits all over again.  I've been growing 
them every year for the past 7 years.
 
I was living in Brixton in a shared house when my next door neighbour gave me 
some spare courgette seedlings.  She had noticed that I was out in the garden at 
every opportunity and that I was starting to grow vegetables.  She told me she 
knew they were going to a good home!
 
At first I tried growing them in a large pot but their leaves started to look a 
little sad so I planted it in the flower border.  It grew these big luscious 
leaves and lots of courgettes and contributed to my very first home grown hangover 
recipe!
 
In my second year as a courgette grower I grew one fruit that was over half a metre 
long - I know, I know, that's not really a courgette anymore!  It looked very impressive 
but didn't really taste great!!
 
Last year I started experimenting with other cucurbits.  I tried a crook neck squash 
which I sourced from Real Seeds.  They had bigger leaves than the courgette and the 
bright yellow fruit looked amazing.  They also cooked very nicely too.  I fried them 
and roasted them with very tasty results.  I grew them in grow bags and neighbours 
did ask how they were growing in such a small amount of soil but they did.  I think 
I'm quite attentive with lots of watering and feeding which makes them look all the 
more lush!
 
This year I'm growing 7 cucurbits in the 2 containers in the picture above. I am often
asked how they can grow healthily in such small containers and so close to each other.
But they wouldn't show off their big velvety leaves if they weren't happy.  I keep them
well watered and well fed.  I have a wormery so they have been top dressed with 
vermicompost and get a regular feed of worm tea.  They seem quite happy on this diet! 
 
I've also heard of them being grown right on top of a compost heap as they are well 
known to be heavy feeders. 
 
Here's what I am growing this year:
1 courgette (this one's a heavy cropper so I shall surely be saving seed from this one), 
2 French heirloom pattypans, 
2 gem squash (inspired to try by my South African friends) 
and 2 squash Zapallito de Toscana from the Heritage Seed Library
All are cropping nicely, although the courgettes are slightly more in the lead.  All 
showing off their huge, luscious velvety big leaves.  And the gem squash have started 
to clamber over my landlords perennial shrubs - ever the opportunists!  How could 
you not love such a gutsy vegetable?
Last weekend, for my Master Gardener in service training, the theme was exotic 
vegetables and they were quite a few new cucurbits to find out about.  That sparked 
some future experimentation like trying shark fin melon, dudi and especialliy the
mouse melon looked very interesting to grow. 
 
But I fear that it is not a large garden or an allotment I need.... It's a very large field 
with lots of room for all the cucurbits I want to grow!!

 
Here's some recipe ideas for the squash glut:
Squash Flower Salad
Courgette Humus 
A Good Summer Roast  

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