I decided to grow a few unusual looking vegetables this year as I’ve always been fairly safe when it comes to growing my vegetables. I tend to stick with the usual suspects …carrots, beetroot, a few second early potatoes, dwarf beans, broad beans. But this year I thought I’d be a bit more adventurous and grow a few Squash plants or Gourds and find a delicious recipe to that will make the most of the delicate flavours.
If you’d like to skip the growing part there is my simple recipe for cooking Squash at the foot of this post.
It started back in February when I was at the local garden centre and I spotted a packet of seed with the most gorgeous looking rich yellow vegetable with the most beautiful striped markings on the outside. The fruits looked like a small pumpkin, but on closer inspection we’re in fact gourds, which I now know are part of the same family of plants called ‘Cucurbita’.
I’d read about how easy they were to grow so I thought I’d give them a go … and having just eaten my first harvest I can tell you they taste wonderful!
Like most vegetables if you want the best results it starts right back at the beginning with healthy young plants.
You can buy your plants from the garden centre but you’ll have to search quite far as they are not the most popular vegetables.
I prefer to grow mine from seed in 3 inch pots two to a pot in a good compost mix at the end of March. You could use seed compost but I believe gourds, pumpkins, courgettes and marrows don’t like to be transplanted too many times, so best start with a regular potting compost mix.
Plant the seeds about an inch deep and give them a good water. Put them on a bench in a heated greenhouse, or on a windowsill and wait for them to germinate. Shouldn’t take long … I seem to remember mine were through in about a week.
A gardener friend of mine covers her pots with a clear plastics bag, but I prefer not to use plastic if possible, but it will bring them on quicker.
If your lucky and both seeds germinate remove the weaker of the two as early as possible so as not to disturb the roots to much. Make sure the plants don’t dry out in the pots, but try not to over water or the delicate stems can rot off and you’ll find one morning your gourd plants have keeled over!
When all fear of frost has past prepare a hole about 2ft x 2ft x 1ft deep with a mix of well rotted compost and top soil. I try to prepare my planting holes a couple of weeks before planting out to allow the compost and soil to settle. Not sure if it makes any difference to be honest but it works for me.
I plant my courgettes and gourds 2-3 feet apart as they eventually grow into sizeable plants, as you can see from the photos. You can’t believe they will grow so big when they are in the 3 inch pots, but grow they will so best give them plenty of room.
I didn’t give the plants any special treatment other than I make sure they never dry out and keep the surrounding area as weed free as possible. I allow 2-3 fruits to grow on a single stem and cut the rest of the stem away after the next park of leaves.
As soon as the fruits started to set I fed them once every other week with my own organic feed, which is a combination of nettles and comfrey. The nettles are high in nitrogen which I feed for good plant development, and the comfrey for potash which is great for swelling the fruits.
It’s mid August now and we’ve just eaten our first gourd and I must say it was absolutely gorgeous. The flesh was a gorgeous orangey yellow colour and really tender with just a hint of sweetness.
Simple recipe for cooking your Squash.
1. Cut your gourd as late as you can prior to cooking to help preserve any natural occuring sugars. Ideal size for a gourd is about six inches across the top. Any larger and they’ll need more cooking and can be tough.
2. Give it a good wash under the cold tap to remove any nasty bugs and leave to dry.
3. Take your gourd and cut it into nice even size chunky wedges.
3. Take a baking a tray and line the bottom with a sheet of tin foil.
4. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with a little rape seed oil and a little balsamic vinegar.
5. Add a small sprig of thyme and rosemary from your herb garden, but be careful as they are both powerful herbs and you don’t want to drown to the delicate flavour of the flesh.
6. I also add a small garlic clove and a sprinkling of smoked paprika as I really love the flavours.
7. Mix the ingredients together making sure the gourd wedges are well coated in the herbs and seasoning and place in a warm oven (180c) and roast for 45-50 minutes until the flesh is nice and tender.
The gourd in the pictures fed four people quite easily and with lots more to come we can look forward to many more meals. Not bad for a £1.98 packet of seeds … Frugal gardening indeed!
I’ll definitely be growing a few more Gourds next season … How about you?