Organic butternut, grown in a compost heap, produces amazing fruit. I have known for years that plenty of humus makes for healthy vegetables, but this year it was brought home spectacularly.
In fact it creates quite a problem because the winter squash totally own the compost heap. This year they have taken over so that we are unable to use the humus where it was destined for; the winter green veg of kale, spinach and broccoli.
So be it; we have other compost piles that can be raided for the winter garden.
This page was last reviewed on 28th December, 2019.
In our attempts to regularly enjoy eight to ten coloured fruit and vegetables each and every day, we had to diversify our meals away from a boring cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and meat and potatoes for dinner.
Well, I'm exaggerating, of course, but there are an awful lot of folk still on a black and white diet, with perhaps a leaf of iceberg lettuce and a tomato thrown in.
That meant looking for yellow, orange, green, purple and red foods. I used the word enjoy in the last paragraph. I wanted to include the nine colours which are proved to lower the all cause of death by thirty five percent, but it still had to be delicious; that was primary.
Yellow and orange foods are filled with substances called beta carotenes, the precursor of vitamin A. They give food a fantastic flavour, but more important, they keep the dreaded cancer at bay.
I've watched one parent, and many patients die from CA and we are determined to do it differently. It's a horrible disease, and whilst much is unknown, there's an awful lot that has been researched. Enter the anti oxidants found primarily in our coloured vegetables and fruit.
Make sure you don't suffer from a beta carotene deficiency.
Beta carotene is one of the many coloured phytochemicals that keep cancer at bay. Do you want to avoid the big C enough to ring in some dietary changes? Try to enjoy ten brightly colored foods every day; this organic butternut will go a long way to keep you in this important precursor of vitamin A.
Not surprisingly, taken in supplement form, it actually increases your chance of getting cancer; let your food be your medicine and keep your pills to a minimum.
Gardening is a strange business. One year it's the organic butternut that do fantastically well, next year it's the sweet potatoes or the beans, or corn, or... there are subtle variations in weather, the seed and other unknowns that make a difference.
2015 was the butternut year. Well, the peas are looking fantastic this year too, but the pole beans were a big disappointment. The Mexican bean beetles got into them, every bean looking like it had measles. A new venture in 2016 solved the problem; free range hens.
These giant butternut chose to grow in the compost pile, uninvited, seed from the kitchen refuse and my were they impressive. The biggest of them weighed nine and half pounds and is 43cm long.
We only grow organic vegetables, so some were planted into Mother Earth, perhaps with a half a spadeful of compost but no more. We had a great crop of them, but just look at the difference.
Both are fantastically good, but no prizes for guessing which one grew in the compost heap! And the flavour was not diluted simply because of its giant size.
Organic butternut need a mound of compost and the plants will follow you in the kitchen door if you are not careful.
The smaller ones too are organic butternut but grown with little or no added humus. There is nothing wrong with them; they are certainly as good as you will get from the supermarket. But the average length is 20cm, with a weight of three pounds, compared to the giants.
We are going to have some fun later this winter, making butternut soup from the monsters grown in the compost pile, and those grown in normal soil. Then we will do some double blinded testing, the gold standard of research, to see if there is a difference in flavour. Watch this space.
The mind is a funny thing. If you are already convinced the monsters will taste better, or worse, then your opinion will be swayed in one direction or another.
But using hard research techniques garnered from years at the coalface, where neither the cook, nor the diner know where the organic butternut came from, we will be able to work out whether there is really a difference in flavour; for better or for worse.
Either way, gardening is a wonderful, if time consuming hobby. You can either spend your time watching the ball game, or you can get out there with Mother Nature, risk injuring your back, or getting a melanoma it's true, but having a lot more fun to my mind.
We make our choices in life, and we live by them and their consequences. I wear a hat, do my back exercises and take my chances with growing organic butternut; it's a lot safer than the damage TV might do to your brain.
Shucks, again I'm exaggerating. I did watch Andy Murray give Kevin Anderson a lesson in how to play tennis at Queens this afternoon.
Two more considerations to think about before planting organic butternut.
1. They have a very long growing season. You plant them in spring once the danger of frost is over, and you enjoy butternut soup over the winter, full of flavour and organic goodness. If you're not careful they'll take over your garden, and even venture in the kitchen back door!
2. Butternut soup, with sweet potatoes and coconut milk is my absolute favourite of the many soups we enjoy. Packet soups with all their chemical flavour enhancers and preservatives give me terrible indigestion. You too? Think organic butternut squash soup recipes this year.
It's such a healthful and delicious food. Do you really want to live to a healthy eighty with all your marbles intact? Think more exercise, like walking and gardening, doing a Sudoku or crossword every day, playing chess, poker or bridge, and growing butternut squash. You won't be sorry, I promise.
Just look at this beauty growing in the compost heap.
Let them grow in the garden with at least half a dozen spades of humus, or let them grow of their own initiative in the compost pile; either way, it is winning situation.
Now you have got one of your nine coloured vegetables and fruit down. The many different varieties of lettuce will easily provide you with all the greens.
Then there are cranberries, mulberries and beets for your purples, tomatoes of course for the reds.
Phytochemical foods are for those who want to sit under the trees they once planted, and enjoy watching the grandchildren growing up and even get to their weddings; not many of us have that privilege. Organic butternut is a great way to start the journey.
Carotenoids are just part of phytochemical foods that include terpenes, saponins, indoles and a heap of other substances increasingly known to be vital for optimal health.
If you are a regular visitor to my healthy living tips page, you'll be getting plenty of all these phytochemical foods. Do not fuss about whether you have enough terpenes in your diet, or you will become a health nut like me.
Or, start to suffer from a really quite serious malady called health nut neurosis.
Butternut are a good way to start; all you need is a compost heap.
There is no cigar on offer for guessing which of these are organic butternut from our garden. Fudge, the dog, loves them too by the way.
Bernard Preston is normally pottering in his garden fussing with the worm farms, or the hens, or growing organic butternut but this week it is three new solar panels. This time, oddly they will be west facing for the afternoon sun. We need more power not at noon, but at 3-5pm.
And now it is to the next chapter of my seventh book, Priests Denied. I am about two thirds of the way. Meantime enjoy Stones in my Clog.
But it is definitely butternut soup for supper tonight.
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