… you take your squashes out, in-out-in-out, shake it all about. That’s what allotmenteering is all about! Okay dokey, enough of all that.
I just about managed to get the garlic and some over wintering onions planted up before a trip away last week. We took our little dog for a run across the wide open sands of the Northumberland coast before heading along the Borders to the Lakes. Two beautiful counties, lots of dog walking balanced out with lots of beer and pie consumption. Perfect.
I look forward to garlic planting, because it’s usually about the last thing to go into the ground before the winter, and I want to savour that final planting ritual with all the careful consideration that autumn now allows. Not like in spring, when there’s a list as long as my arm for seeds to sow and plants to plant, and it all feels a bit frantic. But this is the winding down season, the taking in the harvests and bracing yourself for the storm season, the hot cocoa and a warm bath before bed season.
The garlic heads (all 7 of them, plus 2 saved from last year) were carefully split into their individual cloves, and spaced evenly along shallow trenches (you can dib a hole for them too) and then tucked up with a nice blanket of soil for the winter. They’ll hopefully put down roots before the really harsh weather kicks in, and won’t push out their sturdy little green shoots until spring. So don’t fret if you don’t see much happening in the garlic bed for a while, it’ll all be going on below ground. I’ve given them some compost from the bins, but nothing more. They don’t care for manure, and anything too high in nitrogen will only encourage green growth at the expense of roots. Roots are what they need right now. Come spring, when they respond to the change in light and temperature and decide to make an appearance, then you can give them a nitrogen boost, and also a good water if it’s a dry spell. I like to throw the first grass clippings (which are nitrogen rich) onto the bed as a mulch, which also help to keep the weeds down. Like onions, they don’t like the competition.
But spring is way off in the distance yet. For now, the trees are turning beautiful shades of russet and crimson and golden yellow. The mists are lying gently across the fields and hanging little glass beads on the spiders webs, which are being resolutely spun and re-spun, and spun once again. The weather has been unseasonably warm the last few days, but I doubt it will last, time for the jumpers and warm socks. Summer has been great, but is like a guest who I love dearly, but would still get sick of if they stayed too long. The seasons know when to politely move on.
As for the squash, I harvested 14 of them from just 2 plants. The best yield I’ve had yet. As usual, some are a little bijou, and some are whopping, mammoth beasts. I don’t know how the supermarkets manage to stock only a very particular uniform mid size, there must be so many wasted. Or maybe they go into making soup.
They do make for a delicious soup. I usually roast them in fat chunks with carrots, quartered onions, garlic and some very roughly peeled potatoes. I make double what I need for dinner, and then what is left the next day gets boiled in stock and blended into soup, with a final swirl of cream if there is any. They also go well with ginger and/or chilli for a more heart warming soup. I also discovered last year that they make a lovely alternative to potatoes in a gratin dauphinois, or I sometime alternate layers of squash and potatoes. They work well in a risotto, I wasn’t too convinced by this until I tried it. And I have also spotted a recipe which involves roasting the squash in small cubes, then blitzing it in a food processor along with some gently sautéed garlic, chilli, sage leaves and cream, and then stirring it into pasta. Definitely going to try that.
At least squash do store very well, often until spring, so I’ll have plenty of time to trawl the internet for some more inspiring recipes. They will most likely get pinned here if you wish to follow.
We’ve also started harvesting lots of leeks and carrots, and all of the borlotti beans have been stripped ready for me to pod them for storing, once I get a second life! And here I am attempting to camouflage myself into the surroundings, harvesting some late planted dwarf french beans which haven’t given up just yet. Hope you haven’t either!
Coniston Water in the Lake District.