Monday, August 20, 2007

The Great Pumcchini

Last year a volunteer pumpkin plant sprang up next to the compost pile. Clearly my compost doesn't heat up properly because those seeds must have lain there for a long time. I had not grown or purchased pumpkins in a couple of years. Even better, the pumpkins were fantastic--about 10" diameter, thick flesh that was sweet and not at all stringy. I made pumpkin soup, pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread and still have two containers of pulp in the freezer. Which is a good thing, because. . .

I saved the seeds from the best of the pumpkins of course. I was on to something here--a sweet eating pumpkin that could thrive in my cold-soil garden. In an homage to Territorial Seed Company's "We don't know what the heck we ended up with so we'll call it Wild Garden Whatever and sell it to you at a fancy price" I called it "Molly's Wild Garden Pumpkin". Shared the seed with my sister. We both got fine healthy plants. Hers, having the benefit of warmer weather, set fruit first. I get a phone call.

"What are those pumpkins supposed to look like?"
"Oh, they're kind of squat, not at all like jack-o-lantern types."
"Well, mine look an awful lot like zucchini!"

Ooops. Gotta' love those bees! I wandered out to take a closer look at my plants. All the vigor of the original pumpkin plant was there in the huge leaves, but with the tell-tale silvery splotches of the zucchini I grew last year. And at the base of the first female blossom, a fruit that looked like a short, fat, green zucchini. Genes are funny things. Those were yellow zucchini I grew last year.

I thought I already had plenty of zucchini plants already, so I pulled out all but two of the zupkins to give more growing space to the winter squash. Also one of the zumpchinis had plain green leaves and looked to be setting round fruit.

Two months later the round fruit are clearly a cross between one of the varieties of winter squash I grew last year, Delicata, and the pumpkin. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the flavor is somewhere in between the two. The zumpkins are simply amazing. The blossoms are easily 9"-10" across, all the better to lure in the bees, I'm sure. The squash never get more than about 9" long and about 4" in diameter. And even when they get that big, there isn't a trace of bitterness to them. I'd been throwing the big ones to the chickens but last week I wanted to make a chocolate zucchini cake, so I brought one into the house. I'm thinking I'll let one of them get ripe and save the seeds.

Oh, about the chocolate zucchini cake. Best use of oversized zucchini ever. I had intended to use Inland Empire Girl's recipe but it would have required a trip to the store for buttermilk, so I used this one from the appropriately-named Chocolate and Zucchini blog. Don't worry if you don't have a 3-litre springform pan. I used a 13 x 9 cake pan and it was fine, just not quite as high.


Blogger Catherine said...

Nice site, enjoyed my first visit..your photo's and flowers are just beautiful, I like the way your photo's are round,nice change from the average square shots! Will have to visit again soon! And the chocolate zuccini cake sounds delicious!! Also very interesting Post on your pumpkin/squash...nature is a wonderul thing..aint's she!?!

20 August, 2007 14:12  
Blogger kate said...

This was a great story and I quite like the pumcchini name. Maybe you've come up with an entirely new veggie!

My older sister usually gives me her huge zucchinis and I grate them and freeze them for zucchini muffins or cakes. I love chocolate zucchini cakes ... I received the chocolate and zucchini blog book for mother's day and there are some good recipes in it... besides the choc/zucchini cake one.

21 August, 2007 08:07  
Anonymous John said...

I want a Zumpkin!

21 August, 2007 14:28  
Blogger Inland Empire Girl said...

Actually, I made this again for company and didn't have buttermilk. I just added a bit of lemon juice to regular milk and it worked. You can never have too many zucchini recipes.

25 August, 2007 19:40  
Anonymous Ann said...

LOL. I have volunteer acorn squash (I know nothing about squash), tomatoes, and watermelon. Bad compost lady! But it makes me laugh. And the cherry tomatoes (cross-pollinated, too, I think) are the best I've had since I was a kid.

Compost heaps are a mystery, aren't they?

25 August, 2007 21:51  
Blogger blueblue said...

Having planted pumpkin, zuchinni and squash and knowing that they are cross-pollinating I wasn't going to look at seed saving...however it could be quite interesting : ) . Here's to pumpkininni...sounds rather exotic doesn't it?

27 October, 2007 05:40  

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