I am not given to culinary disasters but pumpkins are a minefield. As far as I am concerned, the bigger the worser. This year we hollowed out two cucurbits for Halloween: A big fat orange supermarket effort, donated by my sister and a tiny, stripy ‘Little October’ squash. The flesh of the squash was firm, sweet and tasted of chestnuts. The pumpkin was soft and watery, almost granular in appearance and tasted of, well, nothing (rather like the specimen that initiated my suspicions in an incident a decade ago, but we will gloss over that). Within a couple of days the big beast was sagging and growing grey-green fur while the squash stayed intact for nearly a fortnight, demonstrating a clearly superior structural integrity. This must be why we carved Halloween swedes and turnips as children – solidity and availability rather than some weird west country scarecrow fetish.
Moving on, we have decided to face the truth and give up our allotment. It was grievously untended state when we started and the battle lines have moved back and forth over the intervening four years as we vied for supremacy with the couch grass. It is also not that convenient to get to and tends to slip down the priority list when deadlines rear their heads and other peoples gardens demand to be visited in the (pleasurable) line of duty. Louche and rather devious, couch grass does not have deadlines or school runs and it is galling to be trounced by a weed.
However we are not downhearted and our grow-your-own ambitions have been relocated and localised, rather than scaled down. The new garden in Wales in proving rambunctiously fruitful – see my forthcoming series starting in Kitchen Garden Magazine in January. And, at home, now the builders have left we have realised that there is a patch of garden next to the apple and pear trees that is just crying out for a good prune and some raised veg beds. I have all sorts of plans for exciting and jazzy things to grow. Watch this space!