Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy Autumnal Equinox (a few days late)

Pie Pumpkin Harvest

The calendar says that Fall arrived this past Monday, and I really meant to celebrate it with you by posting these photos a few days ago, but this week has been very busy for me. Right on schedule the nights are getting cooler now, but our days are still quite warm. We have had a lot of smoke blow in from some fires that are burning in the national forests. Some fires they just let burn, while monitoring them, to restore the natural ecosystem of the forest. No fire danger for us, but still a lot of smoke to breathe around here.

I grow small tender Pie Pumpkins each year. They differ from the standard field pumpkins that are used for Halloween decorations in that they are smaller, sweeter and not as fibrous.

I roast them by first slicing them in half around their equator, scooping out the seeds and stringy stuff, and then placing them cut side down on an oiled cookie sheet. Roast them until "fork tender". Probably about 375 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Placing them cut side down on the cookie sheet allows them to steam themselves while in the oven. When cool enough to handle, carefully scoop and scrape the cooked pumpkin flesh away from the skin and into a storage container to puree and then freeze for baking or to eat as you would any winter squash. Of course, you can use it and eat it right away without freezing it first.

These home grown pie pumpkins make wonderful pumpkin pies and pumpkin bread. They taste much fresher and brighter than the canned pumpkin.

Before I discovered the tender and sweet pie pumpkins, I tried to make pumpkin pie from a standard field pumpkin that I grew my first year gardening. The pie was not very sweet and definitely not tender. I find that the field pumpkins are much better for decoration than cooking. Sometimes I still grow those too, but usually only the small pie pumpkins. This year's harvest was smaller than normal. Fewer pumpkins total and each one smaller than I have grown in the past. I think I need to replenish the nutrients in my soil for next year. Organically, of course.

In the photo above you can see a couple of very small ears of sweet corn nestled in with the pie pumpkins. I grew those this year too. My corn stalks were very stunted. They only reached about half the height that they should have, but they did actually produce many tiny ears of corn for me. Most of the ears were not completely populated (filled with kernals), but some were as you can see in the above photo. I've eaten a couple of them so far, one raw standing right in my garden, and one I steamed and dressed with butter. Both were very sweet. Both were very small.

This photo shows what an ear of corn looks like when you neglect to harvest it on time. All of the kernals are dried right on the cob!

Dried Corn on the Cob

I allowed the corn to dry a little more before feeding it to my chickens. Not sure they liked the whole kernals, my old girls are picky and spoiled. I think they like their corn fresh and not dried and chunky.

It's also apple picking time around here. Most of my apples are still on the trees, but I did manage to harvest a couple of baskets of Gala apples so far. Usually they are ripe and ready to pick in late August, but this year they got ready much later. These were harvested in the middle of September.

Gala Apples

They taste great. I need to get outside and harvest all the rest of my apples before the weather turns cold and before the birds and other beasties find them.

Happy (belated) Autumnal Equinox everyone!

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket


CaliforniaGrammy said...

Pie Pumpkins . . . now that's something I need to look for in the markets, or perhaps farmer's markets would be a better place. I made the mistake once in my life of using the "decorator" pumpkin to make a "fresh" pumpkin pie . . . what a watery disaster it was and totally tasteless. Your crop is simply beautiful!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I'd love to try my hand growing corn, but almost everyone I speak to says that corn drains the nutrients from the soil more than any other veggie crop and that corn is a very thirtsy crop, too.
What's your opinion?

How is popcorn made. Isn't it just dried corn? Could you let the corn dry on the cob, or do you have to take it off first and then let it dry?

Your pumpkins are beautiful, and I can just imagine how wonderful they must be in a pie or bread. Yum!

My favorite apple is the Gala. They are the most flavorful and sweetest to me.

Fall is the season for apples, but we had a late May freeze followed by two hail storms in May and June, so noone around here was able to grow any apples, not even the pick-your-own-orchards.
Our two apples trees and our peach and apricot stayed barren all year. It's really quite sad.

Enjoy a bite of your galas for me :)


Farmer Jen said...

Hi CA Grammy,
I've never seen Pie Pumpkins in the regular supermarkets. Maybe you might find them in some farmer's markets. I've had to grow them to get them. Thank you for the compliments on my produce!

Hi Lisa,
I have grown corn successfully in the past, but yes, you do need to fertilize the soil as corn does require nutrients and water. I use my homemade compost for fertiling the soil, and I don't always have enough to go around. Growing corn is fun, and my family just likes the way it looks when it grows tall in the garden. Some years it grows better than others.

Popcorn is a special variety of corn that has moisture within the kernal which turns into steam when heated and explodes the kernal into our fluffy popcorn snack. You can buy and grow popcorn. Just look for the special popcorn seeds at your favorite seed supplier or garden store.

Thank you for the praise of my bounty. I give all the credit to Mother Nature. Our fruit trees are very much weather dependent also. I have 4 apple trees, each a different variety, and only two are producing many apples this year. All the fruit is quite small this season. Odd weather, lack of watering or something. I'm not sure. They taste good though. I will think of you when eating my next Gala apple. I bet your trees will produce next year. Sometimes they need a season to rest before producing well.

Hardware Bob said...

Wonderful photos and pumpkin squash coverage Jen. Yes,a very busy week for me too. Sorry, I was a little tardy commenting on your posting.

Summer departed so quickly, but I am very excited about Fall officially arriving.

I am looking forward to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and especially Christmas with you.

Your help harvesting my own discovered apple tree would be appreciated before the squirrels, birds, and other critters decide to ravish it.

And, then there's the home made apple pies to follow, the scent of cinnamon and other exotic spices in the air. Yummy, yummy, reminds me of fun times in the kitchen with Mom.

Happy Autumn everyone.

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Bob,
Thanks for the praise of my photos and post. I appreciate it. Oh, I can't think so far ahead right now. The holidays you mention will be here soon enough. I am not ready!I am still trying to finish up my summer chores.

Your apple pies are the best.

Lulu Barbarian said...

I can't believe it's almost October. I'm still harvesting tomatoes, pepper and eggplants, so I just keep pretending it's still summer.

frugalmom said...

The link that you included for the pie that the variety that you actually grow?

This is something that I really want to do next year.

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Lulu,
Yes, these past two months have flown by very very quickly. It's taken me a whole month to even respond to your comment, I've been so busy. The weather stayed warm here right up until today, when it turned cold and rainy here. I still have a few bell peppers and some pumpkins growing out there yet. Soon it will be too cold for them.

Hi Frugalmom,
Yes, while I have grown the bigger field pumpkins (Halloween pumpkins) in the past (just plant some saved seeds from your Jack-o-Lantern)I found that they don't make very tasty eating. I always grow the smaller more tender Pie Pumpkins from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply at the link I included in this post. They are located here in California and are online at I really like the pie pumpkins for cooking. The flesh roasts up sweet, tender and deeply orange colored. Not stringy like the field pumpkins. I am sure you can find the Pie Pumpkin seed, also known as Sugar Pie Pumpkin, at other seed supply houses too.