Full circle – pumpkin from plot to plate
Food & Drink
01 October 2020
I am keen on gardening, it is good for my mental health and wellbeing, but it also helps keep me connected to food, where food comes from and how it grows.
I have a theory that if there is a vegetable you don’t like eating, try growing it, understanding how it becomes what it does and then cook it – it is very likely you will change your mind. Understanding how something grows has helped me understand far more about how to treat a vegetable when cooking or presenting that vegetable for eating.
Ok, so most of my growing happens in a small plot in South London but that’s the ‘R&D’ garden. However, I also work with a team, in a three-acre, 500-year-old walled garden down in East Sussex whose ethics and principles are firmly for completely organic and ‘no dig’, as well as many other super interesting principles around growing food for the table.
A couple of years ago I began harvesting seeds and I now have a collection of over 200 varieties dried and ready to plant. It fascinates me in a childish way but there is a seriousness to it.
When a box of the most amazing vegetables arrives at Trinity, as they do often, I maximise the potential of the vegetables. Let’s take pumpkins for example – we buy ‘Delica’ pumpkins from Puglia in Italy, primed and dipped in wax. The starchy and earthy squash is just amazing to eat and highly expensive.
We use around 200 of these every month. I select a few that are the absolute best at the prime time in their season and harvest the seeds. I wash them and slowly dry them in a dehydrator. Once fully dried, I tuck them away in brown envelopes and label and date them. Come January, I plant out the seeds at home, grow seedlings, then strong plants. After growing them out at home, I transfer some of the stronger plants to the garden in Sussex. To complete the circle this way is wonderful. I know where they are from, how they grow and look at how we can improve them. We have taken this approach successfully with tomatoes from Provence, courgettes, and melons. I have seeds harvested this year from cucumbers, strawberries and aubergines, all from prime samples.
If you can get your hands on Delica pumpkins, try peeling them, de-seed them and save the seeds! Dice the flesh roughly and place into a large pan with lots of olive oil, a chopped green chili, a few spices such as coriander, fennel seeds and a small tsp of mild curry spice. Cook this down slowly for an hour or so until tender.
Once cool, transfer to a bowl and add a teaspoon of honey, more olive oil and lots of seasoning. Take a whisk to the mix until emulsified, a great hummus type dip, equally as great in a vegetarian lasagne or ravioli, or it can be used as a lovely vegetable garnish for grilled meats.