When you plant seeds, you know that you are making a deposit that will not show a yield immediately. Plant radishes and you will see a return in a few weeks, plant purple sprouting broccoli and it will be months before you get anything back (although it is always most welcome to see those tasty shoots start to appear in the depths of winter). Plant winter squashes and you are making a real long-term investment over the year.
It has been such a mild autumn, that we only got round to harvesting the final four of our shark’s fin melons today now that we’ve had a couple of frosts and the leaves have died back. We braved the rain to collect these fruits. The tough stems have been put onto one of the raised beds to rot down and return nutrients to the soil, whilst the fruits with their hard skins can be stored in a cool place indoors to be used as required.
One of them had a little rotten patch on the base, so that has been cut up and stewed in a little sunflower oil and its own juice. Once cool, I will freeze it in portions to be added to soups, stews and curries as required. It turns out to be a good addition to a winter vegetable soup, with onion, carrot, parsnip, leek, potato and kale. The less mature fruits do not need to have the seeds removed, which saves a lot of messing around, but I’m not sure about the biggest specimens. The largest one from today’s haul weighed over 4.5kg, which amounts to a lot of eating and well worth the effort to grow this unusual crop.
The seeds came from Garden Organic’s heritage seed library and I’m planning to save some seeds to plant again next year. This species does not hybridise with courgettes or other winter squash, so should breed true, but only time will tell.
It wasn’t really a high-risk investment even though I wasn’t sure what the return would be, and certainly it’s worth another shot next year… especially if it means you can be harvesting such good things in the middle of December.