Friday, January 14, 2011

Mouldy pumpkin leaf salad with a hint of dairy

A few sad-looking stragglers of last year's crop.
I never used to like pumpkin very much at all. It was one of those childhood things where the taste didn't really come into measure - it was just entirely too orange and squishy-looking to be something that I would consider edible food. When the folks somehow managed to dodge swatting hands and fly the aeroplane through, it only seemed to vindicate my intuition on its appearance - because regardless of whether it did actually taste bad or I just thought it tasted bad - i wasn't going to be brainwashed by whatever cult these guys were in.

It wasn't until I started the plot some twenty years later that I discovered the overwhelming cost/benefit ratio of pumpkin that would have me voluntarily eating pumpkin in most meals for a whole year. For nearly no cost of time or money, I could grow enough pumpkin in three months to last till the next season - gladly spending the zero effort required to preserve them for that long.

So in they went again!

...Only that its not going quite the way I'd hoped.

Usually the main obstacle in pumpkin season is the constant heat wilting the leaves and stressing the plants. I nowadays always plant pumpkin in the understory of my orange trees and amongst my "corn field" for some protection. However, all that we seem to be getting so far  this year is a cool, "watered down" excuse for summer. When summer has occassionally been seen hiding amongst the blackened clouds, the yard turns into a sauna. The end effect is that the pumpkin, shaded and wet, never properly dry out - perfect conditions for the growing spots of death that's now slowly strangling the plants.

Powdery Mildew and I, we know each other on a first-name basis. I had hoped I had it figured out last year... only saving seed from the pumpkins that weren't targeted by my old aquaintence. But now i realise it must have just been a clever ploy of microclimate that saved those plants, and the mildew laughs at me from its newly infected hosts.

So I've been out there armed to the teeth with milk spray (1 part milk, 6 parts water) which is pretty useful for holding off the spread of powdery mildew - when the weather gives me permission. Then I've had to remove all the ailing foliage and hope theres enough green left for them to pull through. But I'm beginning to think all that I'll get out of the pumpkin plants this season is salad of spotty, mould covered pumpkin leaves that smell vaguely like off-milk.

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