a great substitute for traditional carbs

Pumpkins can be eaten fresh off the vines now, or all winter from the storage rack.

At this time of the year use pumpkin in salads. In winter, pumpkin can replace pasta in lasagna, it’s a wonderful accompaniment to any roast and can be made into pumpkin pie dessert.

If you’re confused between pumpkin and squash, generally speaking ‘pumpkin’ is the culinary term and ‘squash’ is the botanical term for exactly the same vegetable. So we’ll refer to pumpkins as squash from this point on!

Squash belongs to the cucurbit family which includes zucchinis, cucumbers and melons.

Cucurbits thrive in warm conditions and early summer is the time to start planting them out. Choose an open space with good air movement which gets all day sun.

Add compost to your soil before planting to increase the nutritive value and improve soil structure. Cucurbits are gross feeders, so we suggest adding an animal manure (chicken poo or sheep pellets) to the hole you plant in. Fork or spade it through though before planting so it doesn’t burn the plant’s roots. Once in the soil, give each plant a handful of Natures Organic Fertiliser and add more animal manure around the plants.

Plant squash 50-70 cms apart. Squash trail extensively, so we recommend popping a bamboo stick in around the centre of the plant. Once they start to trail you’ll be able to find the roots for watering.

Powdery mildew is a problem in humid climates. If your plants do succumb to it OR as a preventative measure here are three ways to treat the disease (use a watering can to apply):
– Dilute milk 10 parts to 1
– Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda to every 1 litre of water
– Dilute Flowers of Sulphur in water (as per instructions on the packet)

A dose of liquid seaweed also helps prevent powdery mildew as it alkalises the leaves of the plants. Be vigilant for yellow and black ladybirds as they help spread powdery mildew.

When you harvest your squash, make sure you leave a good strong stem on. If the pumpkin doesn’t have a stem, it’s the first place rot will set in.

Then add a large handful or a small cup of baking soda to a bucket of water. Stir it in, making sure it’s all dissolved. Dip each squash in the solution, immersing it thoroughly. This solution alkalises the skin of the squash, and helps to keep it from rotting.

Then find a sunny spot to dry them out. We suggest the roof of a north-facing shed which is sloping so rain will run off. This way the skin of the squash bakes, making it hard and more resistant to disease and rot. Make sure the squash don’t touch each other. Leave them here for about 10 days. It’s not a good idea to leave them on the soil they grew in, as it can be damp which increases the likelihood of rotting.

Now they’re ready for storing. Either lay them on a bed of straw or wood chips, or use drying racks, which have good air circulation. The key thing is that they don’t touch anything or each other, otherwise rot sets in.

Buttercup will store for 3-4 months, and squash like Whangaparaoa Crown, Ironbark and Butternut will last for 8-9 months.