Friday, November 25, 2011

The Supreme Pie Makin' Pumpkin!

Several months ago I went searching for an heirloom pumpkin that had the best qualities for pie making. I kept coming across a variety called, Winter Luxury. I purchased a seed packet from Sustainable Seed Co. I was really anxious to plant this new heirloom varitey in our small edible home garden not only because of it's taste but also for it's size. We don't have ample space to grow big ole pumpkins. That's one of many reasons why I love heirlooms. They seem to cater more to the home gardener especially in regards to space and flavor! 

Here she is in all of her Beauty! One of several. She made a little over 2 cups of pulp.

The Winter Luxury Pumpkin requires about 95 to 105 days to reach full maturity. They can be anywhere from 5 to 7 pounds, which is mostly flesh. While they are growing they will have a green exterior that changes to yellow and orange with a nice overlay of beige netting. Since this varitey grows like a vine, it would be neat growing them on a trellis next year to save more space. A healthy plant will yeild 3 - 4 pumpkins per vine and they are great keepers. This is a classic pumpkin indeed! It was introduced by Johnson & Stokes in 1893. At that time the pumpkin had a more yellow pulp. In the 1920's the Gill Brothers of Oregon re-introduced the variety with an oranger pulp. I've also read that this is Glenn Drowns favorite pie pumpkin. He is the Vine Crop Curator for the Seed Savers Exchange. 

Beautiful netting almost like a muskmelon.


So guess what I brought to Thanksgiving dinner? Yup, you guessed it, Pumpkin Pie! I sliced that pretty pumpkin, removed the seeds, and placed the slices in the oven at 400 degrees.

I seperated the seeds to roast them and then used the stringy core pulp for a facial scrub. 
Rich color!

While the pumpkin was roasting away I gave myself a luxurious pumpkin facial with the left over immature seeds and stringy pulp. The immature seeds act as an extra exfoliant and the pumpkin stringy pulp from the core contains lots of vitamins! Vitamin A, vitamins E and C, salts and minerals, carbon hydrates, and proteids are found in the pulp. The pumpkin's core contains lecithin, tyrosine, peporesine, phosphorus and vitamins B and A. My skin felt so smooth after this easy all natural treatment!

Another cool thing I stumbled upon which I was totally unware about was the medicinal properties of pumpkin seeds! Some of the theraputic benefits of pumpkin seeds are; support in eliminating intestinal parasites, cleaning of the blood vessels, stimulating kidney activity and adjusting cholesterol levels. I've read that you get more of these health benefits if you eat them raw as opposed to roasted. 

Soon after my refreshing facial the roasted pumpkin slices were ready to be blended! Take those gorgeous roasted pumpkin slices out of the oven to let them cool for about 15-20 minutes, remove the skins, place in blender or food processor, hit start, be patient, and also be ready for a luxurious pumpkin puree.  

It's like butter baby.......

Now time to add the sugar, spice and everything nice! Blend together and then place on stove top to melt brown sugar along with those intoxicating spices. Of course, all of this pie filling preparation is done  after you have made your pie dough. At the very least, make sure the pie crust is ready to go before putting your pumpkin pie mixture on the stove top!

Final mix will have a nice sheen to it. 

Add your final ingredients and then fill your pie crust. For my pie filling I used a recipe from The Delicious Life Blog which provides you with a Cook's Illustrated recipe. I used my own crust recipe which came out too salty, next time I will try a graham cracker pie crust recipe instead. However, the pie filling itself was the best I have ever had and others agreed. Don't forget to whip up some real whip cream by using heavy whipping cream, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and powdered sugar for sweetness. 

A Real Winter Luxury Pumpkin Pie. The way Pumpkin Pie is supposed to taste!
Close up of the Pumpkin Pie goodness!

We are thankful for the many lessons that the Pathway to the Garden has taught us this year and we are thankful for our Organic Homegrown Winter Luxury Pumpkin Pie! A new tradition that we plan to keep by saving these wonderful seeds, it's hard not to eat them all up! 

Monday, October 17, 2011

What's in this soil?

Photo taken a couple of weeks ago. Wildflowers re-seeding alongside raised bed. 
      Growing healthy soil will help you sustain a healthy environment therefore enabling you to obtain a balanced ecosystem sooner than later. Testing your soil is essential! I've only tested school garden soils, and received some unsettling results, but I never tested our own garden soil. In a few weeks I will be sending some samples in! Mainly to see if we are exposing ourselves to any heavy metals. I feel like I'm making a confession here because soil is truly sacred. I mean think about it, where would we be without soil? I guess the reason why I never felt the need to test our soil was because of the "life" I saw in it, worms wiggling around amongst other soil dwellers, adequate soil moisture was being kept, soil smells sweet, and so on. I also felt that my source for soil was a kosher one at least for the price that fit our pocket book. Fingers crossed! I added organic matter and fed the soil some compost tea as well. Our plants have been thriving and providing us with substantial harvests as well, so no apparent signs of toxicity. Sigh of relief!
Photo taken a week ago of soil in raised beds.
     When taking heavy metal soil test samples, be sure to not go further than 2 feet deep as you might miss some of the heavy metals in your soil. Heavy metals like lead and arsenic don't breakdown and will remain toward the surface of the soil. I will be doing at least 4 test samples for each of our raised beds. I also plan on taking some samples from underneath our sheet mulch as we want to start planting edibles around the raised beds too.

Photo taken in summer of soil under the sheet mulch.
The time has come, we cannot allow our garden to journey any further down the pathway without an "Official Soil Test"! Stay tuned and if you haven't tested your garden soil, please, join me. I've used this resource before and I've been happy with their options and results - University of Mass Soil Test

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Countdown till Autumn

     Our home edible garden was established little over a year ago. Since then I feel as though we've always had late harvests. However, this year we're ready for Fall! Sowing seasonal varieties is a key element in sustainable gardening and it's just plain easier for a gardener even in Southern California. In general, sowing seeds in this fashion makes for healthier soil and harvests with less human intervention. Let's take a stroll down the garden pathway to see what's growing on.
Snap Peas ready to be transplanted.
Nice healthy roots, thanks to the nifty Speedling Transplant Tray.
Sowed these Beauty Beyond Belief varieties last weekend.
Another Armenian Cucumber Harvest, grown from Sustainable Seed Co.
Our first Pumpkin!

     Along this season's garden pathway I discovered valuable practices that we will carry on for a lifetime! One being the absolute beauty in growing heirloom varieties. There is something quite magical about seeds that have rich historical backgrounds. When sowing heirloom seeds I feel as though I'm about to unveil some ancient secret. What better way to connect us to history and culture! This season has also shown us the great benefits of having MULCH in our garden. One can never have too much mulch! As the mulch breaks down over time it encourages good soil health, retains soil moisture, and prevents weeds from growing.