A frost warning may be in effect in your area this week!
If you want the very best-tasting pumpkin pie, the one ingredient to avoid putting in your pie is…pumpkin.
Yes, I know this seems like a rather absurd statement, but commercial pumpkin pie fillings aren’t really made with pumpkins, rather they are made with specific varieties of butternut squash.
Now, before you vent your outrage at the big food corporations for misleading consumers, keep in mind that the terms "Pumpkin" and "Squash" don’t really have a precise botanical meaning, and one really needs to delve into a bit of botany to understand how the two are related.
Most varieties of Halloween carving pumpkins are from the species Cucurbita pepo, whereas pumpkin pie fillings are varieties of Cucurbita moschata that includes the rich-flavoured and meaty, butternut squashes.
Of course, if you’re thinking, "Why can’t I have the best of both worlds – something that I could either carve or eat and still looks like a pumpkin?" Well, this year, we have the perfect solution to the pumpkin/squash conundrum. It’s sort of a "Have your carve and eat it too" scenario. Cinderella is a variety that has both a rich, red-orange skin and looks like a pumpkin, but has delicious orange flesh that can be baked or used in pies.
But just remember that while Cinderella is great for cutting or culinary purposes, it is far too small to be used as a carriage.
Around mid-September, we would always keep a close eye on the forecast to figure out the best schedule for harvesting our vegetables. Squash, pumpkins and tomatoes had no frost tolerance so there was always a bit of panic to get them out of the field before temperatures dipped below freezing.
At the other end of the spectrum were vegetables like rutabaga and parsnips that could not only tolerate hard frosts, but actually tasted better when they were hit by a hard frost. These vegetables were always the last to be pulled from the field. However, I do remember a few years when we would get caught by an unseasonably early snowfall and these frost hardy – but not winter hardy vegetables - remained in the field all winter.
The one vegetable that always worried me were our potatoes. A light frost would kill the potato foliage that, in turn, would cause the skins of the tubers to "set". Without the tops being killed, the tuber skins would remain thin and slippery and were only capable of storing for a few weeks rather than throughout the winter.
But the problem with waiting for a hard frost was that cold air could penetrate down through the cracks in the soil and damage the odd tuber that was near the soil surface. The old adage, "One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch" applied equally well to potatoes.
I remember storing huge piles of potatoes in our barn one year where just a few tubers had been exposed to frost. These small pockets of frost-damaged potatoes did spoil the "whole bunch", and the following spring I remember literally pumping potatoes out of our barn.
Imagine wading into the middle of a huge pile of rotting, stinking, "potato soup" and dropping a sump pump in the middle. It’s a vivid memory that sticks with me to this day.
OK, sorry about that imagery! You won’t have to contend with any potato storing disaster like this but keep in mind that garbage-in equals garbage-out. Store only high quality vegetables and use those that don’t quite make the grade within a few weeks. If you don't adopt this strategy, I think it is safe to say that you need to keep your sump pump on standby.
Perish the thought.
We're getting lots of calls about whether or not we have any pumpkins and the answer is we've got tons! 20 tons in fact!
Small ones, big ones, some the size of your head! We've got:
- Icy Whites
- Atlantic Giants
- We have some pretty cool looking mini gourds too!
Stop by soon for the best selection.
A frost warning is in effect and we've received a lot of phone calls from people asking about what can stay outside and what needs to come in. Here's our quick guide:
- Apples: A light frost will not affect the apples and may even make them sweeter. Barring a severe September storm, leave your apples on the tree until they are ripe (mid- to late- September for most late bearing apples).
- Beans and Peas: Will not tolerate frost. Harvest these guys and eat them up!
- Beets, Carrots, Onions, Potatoes: Protected underground, these vegetables do fine in a light frost and their flavour may even improve with the cold. That said, harvest them before the ground freezes.
- Chard, Kale, and Cabbage: These plants should all survive a light frost. Cold temperatures will even intensify the colour and flavour of chard, and may sweeten cabbage.
- Corn: Corn is frost sensitive. If your corn is ready, pick it now. If it is not yet ready to harvest, cross your fingers and hope for the best. A hard frost will reduce the shelf life of corn to 3 to 4 days.
- Lettuce and Salad Greens: Cold will affect the look and texture of lettuce and salad greens, but they can survive a light frost. If you’d like, harvest the tops of the lettuce and see if they come back afterwards.
- Tomatoes and Peppers: Harvest any ripe tomatoes and all peppers. Unripe tomatoes are bit more complicated. If you’re feeling cautious and would rather not deal with any stress, harvest them all now—ripe or not.
If you’re feeling daring and if the forecast cooperates for the next day or two, you may be able to get away with bringing the tomato vines close to the house (preferably on the south side of the house) and covering them with some light bed sheets to protect them from the frost.
However, if the forecast dips below -2°C, the tomatoes will probably end up covered in frost anyways even with these precautions. Keep an eye on your local temperature, and harvest the unripe tomatoes if necessary. Green tomatoes can be ripened inside on sheets of newspaper.
- Pumpkins, Squash, Zucchini, Cucumbers: Cucumbers, zucchini, and summer varieties of pumpkin and squash should be harvested now, wiped dry, and cured in a hot, dry room for a few days to improve shelf life.
Properly cured, they may store for a few weeks. Avoid storing these fruits on concrete or metal surfaces as it can cause them to rot.
Thin skinned cucumbers will not store as well and should be eaten within a few days.
Some pumpkins and squash are "winter varieties" and can store very well if properly cured. Harvest any mature “winter variety” gourds before a frost (they will have a nice tough skin when mature) and do your best to protect the immature ones by covering them with a sheet. Immature gourds will not ripen off the vine or once the vine has died, so protecting them and hoping for the best is the best strategy. Be careful not to crush the vines.