The hubby has never really shared my passion for allotment-growing. He does enjoy the results, ie: delicious edibles; random plant-part (leaf, stalk, flower, fruit or bulb) transformed into plate of food. But, the ‘before’ bit – mud and dirt, seeds and compost – It’s just not his thing. There is, however, nothing like a spot of ‘friendly’ competition to get a man going. Thus, when a friend earlier in the year suggested a pumpkin growing contest – played out in public via the wonders of Social Media – he was in. So began one man’s first attempt at growing-his-own …
Here’s how it went.
April. Let the learning curve commence …
… June …
… July – August …
… September – October …
Sadly, ‘Giant Ginge’ didn’t quite make it to record-breaking proportions. So, no prize win for my man (this time). And, once picked and left to cure, the stalk very obviously started to rot. Meaning, this beasty had to be used sooner rather than later. So, it was, into the oven in large chunks (skin on, seeds removed) to be roasted to reduce moisture content and improve flavour (these giant pumpkins are bred for size, not taste, they are full of water and not the greatest for cooking and eating).
The cooked pumpkin flesh (skin removed) then went into the freezer and came back out again today, to be transformed into a big pan of soup (some of which we ate, freezing the rest as individual portions for future use). This, for me is the real winner. It’s all very well, al that macho ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ competition. Growing something that can be turned into something that can be eaten – this, for me, is the real winner.
Pumpkin soup recipe
When I say ‘recipe’ I use the term loosely. This is more a list of ingredients (in no exact proportion) and a general cooking method, to be adjusted to individual preference.
Onion (red, white or a mix of each), 1 or 2, also a leek or two, if you want.
Celery, 1, 2, or 3 sticks, however much you want (none, if you do not like it.
Garlic (two or three cloves, more or less or even none, it is your choice)
Pumpkin, whatever type you happen to have, however much you want, either roasted (as above) or simply chopped and used raw.
Root veg: sweet potato, carrots, parsnip, whatever you have, in whatever amount feels right.
Orange split lentils. These give ‘body’ to an otherwise watery soup, but can be left out if you do not like or cannot eat them. (maybe add a normal white potato if you leave out lentils, for extra starch, boosting texture).
vegetable (alternately, chicken or beef) stock, or water.
Additional seasonings: salt, pepper, herbs of your choice. Chilli, etc.
Method: chop onions (and leeks if using), sweat to brown in pan, add celery, cook a further few minutes. Add garlic (if using) together with stock, lentils (if using) and other veg in order of how long it will take to cook (carrots, for example, take longer than pre-cooked pumpkin). Simmer until just soft but not overcooked. Blend or mash (stick blender is helpful here). Add seasonings – either mixed in or sprinkled on top to serve.