Astonishing butternut harvest

This astonishing butternut harvest made for an untidy patch but gosh what a mountain of nutritious organic food. No gardener should go hungry if and when hard times arrive unexpectedly.

This untidy butternut patch produced an astonishing harvest.

Last year we had a poor butternut crop, so we collected and dried great handfuls of seeds from the few we did get and tossed them around the garden in the Spring, especially on the compost heaps. Everywhere, there are plants to be seen, under the mealies, taking over after the potatoes died back and in amongst the beans and peppadews; about 150 at the last count, in just an ordinary suburban garden.

Those from the compost heaps are simply huge; butternut seems to be one of those vegetables that do not lose their flavour when they grow large. Jamie Oliver recommends eating them very young, so you will not need to peel them. I couldn’t agree less; they are tasteless and insipid. Wait until the plant has died back and the butternuts have turned a dark nutty brown colour; then the flesh will be a deep orange colour, rich in carotenes, and a wonderful sweet taste.

Ripe and immature butternut.

No prizes for choosing the butternut that are fully ripe, sweet and rich in beta-carotenes and other phytochemicals. The immature ones are tasteless and obviously less nutritious, but it does take five minutes to peel those that you have waited patiently for.

It's fully worth the wait.

Whilst it’s true that a frank beta carotene deficiency[1], from which one would literally die, is uncommon, low levels of this very important phytochemical makes one prone to a host of serious diseases, poor eyesight and a pimply skin. It is found in many fruits and vegetables so those enjoying a well-rounded diet need have no fear.

Butternut galore.

It is just one of over 40 different phytochemicals that we absolutely must have from our food, which is why it is recommended we should be enjoying at least seven to ten different coloured fruits and vegetables every day. It’s not rocket science; a slip of parsley, half a dozen cherry guavas, a tomato, lettuce and kale, and a mealie. Simple; and a butternut of course.

Slow food, made fast is our motto. The easiest way requiring very little time, electricity and other costs is butternut soup. Twenty minutes in the pressure cooker with a few spices and a sweet potato, and perhaps an apple, and then added cream or coconut milk with a slice of artisan bread and you have a nutritious and wholesome meal. It is quite high in starch, but this is slow-release glucose with all the fibre; nevertheless following lunch with a short walk would be a good idea, as with all carbohydrate meals. Interestingly researchers found that a group of unstable diabetics had far better control of their blood sugar if they ate from the pumpkin family daily[2].

Still, roasted butternut with olive oil, thyme and garlic is a great favourite, but only on a fine day when Mr Golden Sun is generously supplying us with free energy that will power the electric oven. Working with nature, rather than against it, has meant that we have spent less than a hundred rand in total in the last year on water and electricity combined. I’m not boasting, but encouraging you too to join the green movement.

City Hall would not be pleased, of course, but they have made their bed, and must now sleep in it. We have gone elsewhere for reliable electricity and water.

The benefits for your own well-being, and that of the planet are simply vast when you become a greenie. Think about signing up for our monthly newsletter; we don't spam people and pressure you to buy a host of supplements. Let your food be your medicine, rather.

Roasted butternut seeds too are a great source of many important vitamins, protein and minerals; simply wash after scooping them out, spread them out on a baking tray with a little olive oil or butter, salt and seasoning and pop them in the oven whilst the fruit are roasting. A wonderful nutritious snack; you actually don’t need to shell them, but you can if you want.

Barrowful of butternut.

This year we are going to experiment with freezing butternut; I believe it is simple. You can store them in a cool, dark corner but they start to go soft after a couple months. We would like to enjoy butternut soup all year round. The plan is to pressure-cook them, mush with a stick blender and then fill yoghurt containers. Date and label each one.

Start collecting your butternut seeds now, dry them and put them away safely where the rats can’t get at them; they know a good thing should they find them. It will mean an untidy, rank garden but isn’t that better, knowing you will have a mountain of good food at the end of summer?

Greenies are starting to dig out their lawns and plant vegetables; it’s worth a thought. Less time wasted mowing the grass too.

Freezing butternut

Butternut soup kitchen tools.

So potentially we will have 3 butternut per week for a whole year! Even though these winter squash as the Americans call them will keep in a cool place for some months, we will obviously have to freeze many. A pressure cooker is such an important appliance in our home; saves us time and money.

Using solar energy for cooking and freezing butternut squash is even better; only peeling the fruit takes time. These tools are useful, but I have found no shortcuts; it is rather tedious but having instant food from the freezer is such a boon.

Great depression

Yeasted beer bread.

We obviously all are hoping that this pandemic will not be followed by a great depression like the last one a century ago, but recessionary times and job losses are already happening. It could happen to any one of us. There are many good reasons to start gardening; we are assured, and you could be too, of food on the table like this astonishing butternut harvest, if hard times were to arrive.

We could survive if we had a small flock of hens that could get most of their food from wandering about the garden, a spinach and kale patch, peppadews and this astonishing butternut harvest. Oh, and this yeasted beer bread that we bake every day for only R6 per loaf; less than half a dollar. It would be boring, but no one would starve.

Brewing a honey brown beer would be an indulgence in such difficult circumstances, but would soften the pain if you kept a few hives at the bottom of the garden; only the gleanings would be used.

By the way, can you spot in the photograph at the top of this page where a hen is nesting, cunningly hidden from the vervets and chicken-hawks? It's ten days until they hatch; then they will have to be securely locked up at night and kept under cover when the raptors are cruising, looking for an easy meal.


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Astonishing butternut harvest

An astonishing butternut harvest from our modest suburban garden means plenty of nutritious food on the table and gifts for the hungry.

  1. Bernard Preston
  2. Our green home
  3. Our green garden
  4. Astonishing butternut harvest

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  1. Beta-carotene (provitamin A) is an excellent source to prevent blindness.
  2. Anti-diabetic effect of pumpkin. Web: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19420712/

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