Dad never really liked pasta. If it was in a lasagne then that was a bit different as the pasta was all hidden. As dad got older he enjoyed penne with a nice rich tomato sauce... and cheese. But in my early years dad was not a fan of pasta... and especially spaghetti...
When I suggested to dad around the age of eight that there was a vegetable that I'd like to grow called Spaghetti Squash, the seeds never arrived. I'm sure I continued to ask to grow this same vegetable over a good number of years, though the seeds again never seemed to arrive. Lots of other seeds arrived: parsnips, runner beans, carrots, beetroot, French beans, lettuce, tomatoes, aubergine, peppers, sweetcorn, courgette, marrow, spinach, radish, celery and many more. To be frank, I sort of forgot each year about the Spaghetti Squash because of the abundance of other exciting seeds that were arriving and being sown. I got so caught up in the joy of what we had that I forgot and therefore didn't worry about what I didn't. It was only when I saw it in the annual catalogue from Thompson & Morgan that I would say again "Dad, can we grow some Spaghetti Squash this year?"
It was in this first decade or so of my life, filled with the joys a productive garden brings - veggies, flowers, soft fruits, and apples and pears in our orchard - that my desire to want to grow fruit, vegetables and some flowers really flourished.
Some four decades later, in January this year, we received a little parcel from Erica of Erica's Little Welsh Garden. As an extra Erica had also included a whole host of different seeds. There were loads of packets of her own saved seeds from last year's harvests, including a good number of different squash and pumpkin varieties. However, it was one little plain white packet that really caught my eye... it held six of Erica's saved Spaghetti Squash seeds. There were also other packets with some giant pumpkin seeds and some other exotic squash seeds, though my heart just leapt at the thought of these six little dried, papery and weightless Spaghetti Squash seeds.
Obviously, I sowed them as soon as I could. The seeds germinated well and grew strong. When they reached a healthy size I put them in at the Community Gardens; I wanted them to be away from our Cheeky Prince at the allotment plots. I admit to watering them, though apart from that I sort of left them to their own devices. And boy did they grow... not massive and spreading, though rather productive. In fact these Spaghetti Squash have proven to be our most prolific of any squash this year. There seems to be two distinct varieties. One is a mottled green (below) and the other is the yellow one (above).
Yesterday, with some excitement and trepidation, I went down to the Community Gardens to harvest the first Spaghetti Squash. It was quite a moment and did somewhat pull at my heartstrings. It's quite incredible that I have been waiting to sow, grow, harvest, cook and taste a Spaghetti Squash for almost 46 years!
I brought it home and found that the mellow yellow skin was actually extremely tough. Maybe I had just left it in situ ripening too long? I tried to prick it all over as it says on the cooking instructions that I had read online, though the fork hardly made a dent. I decided the best thing to do would be to cut it in half and then bake it in the oven with the cut sides down. After 45 minutes I turned the bronzed shells over so that the flesh was showing and popped a knob of butter and some cracked black pepper into the hollow where the seeds had been. Back in it went for another 15 minutes...
When I took it out of the oven it smelled nice, though nothing special. I used a fork to tease out the flesh, and sure enough the yellow lusciousness came apart and turned into little threads of buttery squash. Awesome!! I have to admit it was all a little bit wetter than I had imagined it would be, though with a little bit of salt added it was absolutely divine!
Finally, I had sown, grown, harvested, cooked and eaten a Spaghetti Squash!! A lifetime goal achieved, and a desire fully quashed (not squashed!!)!
Will I be doing them again? Most probably. I still have three seeds remaining from the six Erica sent, and will be saving some seeds from the mesh of threads and seeds I removed prior to baking.
All I need now is more space to have a huge squash and pumpkin patch, and to harvest the rest of these little beauties of Spaghetti Squash at the Community Gardens.
I think even dad would have been happy with the outcome; he loved marrow with butter, salt and pepper and I'm sure this would have been one 'spaghetti' he would have happily devoured.
A Guernsey Gardener in London, Day 4
Butternuts, it appears, are a little like buses. You wait ages for one to come along, and then three appear at the same time!
It hasn't been a great year for our squash, or at least not at the allotment. There are a few Cheeky Prince growing amidst the toppled Gigantes and buckled rose arches; some of these squash royalty are green and some distinctly turning a bright orange. However, on the whole squash on our allotment plots this year have been few and far between... literally!!
When I meandered down earlier to check on our plots and read the site water meter, I thought whilst I was there I would just pop over to where we are tending to a 2m by 1m patch on a fellow allotmenteers plot. The two Achocha that Vivi gave us in early July are both about seven or eight foot high now, and covered in little fruits (note to self - make Vivi's Achocha & Chickpea Curry!!), and the sight of them did brighten my day.
One of them did look a little off though... Odd colour... Odd shape... Had it not been pollinated correctly? Had it been distorted somehow by rubbing against the willow pole structure? Or was it in fact not an Achocha at all?!?!
So you can imagine the flush of warmth inside and the big smile that came to my face when I saw the little wee Butternut Waltham above. Finally... FINALLY we had a butternut. And then I spotted another! And yet another!!!!!
So, after all that slightly pained forlornment of the past few months, we finally have three baby Butternut Walthams, though as Hamlet said, 'there's the rub'! It is now the third of October, the nights are chilly, rain is always round the corner, sun shines brightly and then is quickly scurried away by storm clouds, and therefore the chances of any of these three beauties ripening to maturity is slim to none.
However, it is now true that we do have butternuts. They may not lift to the heights, maturity and fruitfulness of Hugh & Mama and their plump family of last year, but they are Butternut Walthams none the less. And that, in itself, is worth smiling about.
A Guernsey Gardener in London, Day 2
...long term partners.