I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. If you’re going to start procuring your own food, you need friends like Al and Christl.
Al and Christl are the best gardeners we know. We’ve had their asparagus, kale, garlic chives, strawberries, blackberries, rhubarb, and tomatoes, and they’ve all been beautiful specimens of their kind, and very good to eat. So, when Al called us yesterday morning telling us he had a very large winter squash going begging, I was delighted.
An hour or so later, he pulled into our driveway, opened his trunk, and staggered back with the biggest squash I’d ever seen. It looked like something out of Sleeper.
“That’s a big squash,” I said.
And it was wasn’t even the whole thing – he’d kept part of it for their dinner. As a bonus, he brought us three blackberry vines, ready to plant. All I could give him in return was a lousy dozen eggs, but I promised that more would be forthcoming as the winter wears on.
I didn’t get to the squash yesterday as we had a dinner party to go to, and it was waiting for me when we got home late last night. There was also a message on our phone. Kevin checked it, and I heard him laughing. When he’d listened to the whole thing, he handed me the phone and told me I had to listen for myself.
“Hi, it’s Al,” the message said. “That squash we gave you was a dud. We cooked it up for dinner, and it was stringy and watery and didn’t have much flavor.” He went into some detail, and ended the message with, “It’ll make good compost.”
Christl is as experienced at cooking vegetables as she is at growing them, and both she and Al hate waste. If Al even hints that it should go in the compost, you can believe that it should go in the compost.
But I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t relegate that much squash to the compost.
Today, I cut off a piece and tasted it. Not much flavor, but what little there was didn’t offend. Kevin tasted it too. “This thing had sex with a watermelon,” he said, knowing the propensity of squash to breed with anything in pollinating distance. It was a distinct possibility. It tasted like a cross between a cucumber, a watermelon, and a glass of water. But not bad. I could work with it.
I’d have to work with it a lot, since it weighed almost twenty pounds, so I got started right away. I made a basic squash soup (the recipe is here) in which cream and really good chicken stock cover a multitude of sins. They did their job, and the soup was delicious. The squash couldn’t stand on its own, but it could add bulk, and color, and texture to all kinds of things. I think, over the course of the winter, I’ll manage to use up twenty pounds of squash. And, if I can, Al and Christl certainly can.
I called them. “Don’t compost the squash!” I said. “You can use it. It’ll work for lots of stuff.”
Christl told me she still had it and, although she had been disappointed with last night’s dinner, she thought it would make a good soup. She went on to describe how she’d make it, and it was exactly how I’d done it, down to the pinch of nutmeg. I knew there was a reason I liked Christl.
The only reason she even considered composting it is that she’s got three more exactly like it.