Monday 27 November 2017

Harvest Monday and a trip to Spain

So, I was away last week visiting my sister in very sunny Spain (more of that later). On returning, I was happy to find that the first of my mega green butternut squashes was still ok (we'd eaten about 2/3 of it but left the last 1/3 in the kitchen, with the cut end covered over. The cut end was fine - it was a section still of solid flesh rather than a seedy bit. I cut off a few rings and made a curry which lasted 3 meals for the two of us, not bad. But that then exposed the seedy bit, which is quite liquidy and would rot quickly.
So last night I roasted it in chunks with rosemary, red onion and garlic. This is the actual colour, I haven't edited it...very orange.
Towards the end I added some kale that I'd harvested yesterday at the plot (there was a cold wind blowing down there and I didn't hang around very long).
It's really good..The butternut squash has a very sweet flavour, though some liquid does come out during roasting. Anyway I ate a load last night and we had some of it today for lunch. I chopped and cooked a potato first to add and make into a kind of soupy stew. Oh, and also added some fresh leaves of winter purslane from the lean-to, there's a couple poking out in the photo below. Jan's got a cold and I thought a hot lunch with extra vitamin C from the purslane might help (spoiler hasn't!).
Also, a bit of an unseasonal harvest yesterday - a couple of aubergines and a red pepper from the lean-to greenhouse. They haven't seemed to suffer too much with the cold temperatures but as we've been getting some heavy frosts this week I thought I'd pick them before they were past it. I roasted the two aubergines (in a separate dish to the squash) with some tasted lovely but didn't look so good. Also, I caught naughty minxie cat on the worktop, licking the dish (after I'd eaten some), so I'm not sure if she was licking the aubergine or the oil, or both...whatever the case I'm a bit reluctant to eat the rest! I haven't used the pepper yet...I forgot today so maybe tomorrow.
One of my sisters lives in southern's so hot there - too hot for me in the summer, so we visit in the autumn. It's actually still pretty hot during the day but cooler at night. They have some land with almond trees, and this year harvested about four sacks of nuts....and so I didn't feel too guilty at cracking my way through a bucket load to bring home. It was lovely waking up and heading straight out to my nut-cracking station. People seem to have their preferred method of opening the nuts, and mine is sitting across a low wall, with a large stone with a groove in it (for the nut to nestle in), then give it a couple of taps with a stone.
My method definitely improved over the week and I managed to get most of the nuts out whole, quite a satisfying job. In fact I virtually had to be dragged to the car on our last day, getting in a final few cracks to leave some nuts ready for my sister to munch on.
This was the view from my nut-cracking station...not bad, not bad.
Back at home we're making steady progress through the nuts, I don't think they'll last us very long (I should've got up earlier each day). They're delicious on they're own raw, but even better dry toasted in a pan, and even better better mixed with a bit of honey, pinch of salt and chilli powder then toasted in the oven. I made some of these last night but they didn't make it into a photo.
I don't like to sit around too much on holiday, so if we weren't out for the day I made myself useful on the land. They have a swale (on-contour ditch for spreading out rain water) with planting pits dotted along. You can just make out a pit in the pic below.
There was a flush of wild plant growth this year after some rain, which led to masses of wild rocket germinating, so we've been clearing the dead dry plant material (grows up to about knee height) and adding it into the swale, to help absorb any rain when it does eventually come (the area is a semi-desert with very low rainfall). Within the pits they'd had broad beans, which actually did really well, they'd eaten loads fresh and I found loads more dried beans for saving. I podded them whilst sat at each pit, to chuck a few beans back in and see if they do anything over winter. I also added the dead stems and pods back into each pit, again to add organic matter.
I had some help from Beth dog. She wasn't in the way at all.
The area my sister lives (Almeria) is really diverse. A large proportion is semi-desert mountains, but we visited the Rio del Agua, which because of the water is much more lush. Unfortunately though, the whole area is suffering from over-abstraction, one of the main reasons being that the new extensive olive plantations require irrigating. As a result, the huge aquifer is rapidly depleting. We bumped into a guy who's been meeting with UN to explain the effect it's having on the ecology and people...what an inspiring man.
We also visited a botanic garden, set in the area of an abandoned gold mining town. I'm always a sucker for a veggie plot, so enjoyed seeing what they were up to. Incredibly, because of the super-long growing season in almeria they even had some new-ish plantings of potatoes, tomatoes (growing up the frames) and broad beans.
Potatoes with toms in the background.
Broad beans.
The gardens were lovely to wander around and earlier in the year would be full of colour. As it's Autumn, there was a lot of green, though still lots to enjoy. I particularly liked all the carob trees, with pods dripping down.
We had a day birdwatching in the salt lake area adjacent to the coast. As well as some cool bird spots (including flamingo and black winged stilt) there was an unexpected site....
A herd of goats coming along the beach!
Jan and I really loved the goats, they have such nice faces. We've seen them in the mountains before but not along the beach. And some started following us instead of the goat herd, so his dog had to come round them up. (I'm sure he wouldn't have noticed if we took one or two home). As well as being kept for the milk and meat, the goats in this area are taken around to graze the scrub down and reduce the fire risk.
We had such a good break, it was a bit of a culture shock to get back to a busy city that's gearing up for (dare I say) Christmas. So I'll end with a couple of reminders of the peaceful countryside there - the walking route through to their nearest town....
And a beautiful cove down on the coast...sigh.

Thanks for reading this week, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Out Happy Acres.



  1. Your butternut dish does look familiar, and I bet it was tasty too. It sounds like you had a lovely holiday and kept busy! The almond harvest and cracking is really interesting too. I've never been around almond trees or seen them growing for that matter. The really fresh nuts would be a huge bonus.

    1. Thanks Dave. The almonds are interesting - there are varieties for eating like this, but then others which are used for making marzipan, which need processing (otherwise will make you ill). So you need to make sure what kind of trees you've got! They harvest in September, whacking the trees to knock the nuts off. Then they need drying to get the outer cases off, and dried for storing, and then cracking to get the actual eating bit out. So it's quite laborious! But I guess a similar amount of work compared with harvesting my hazels.

  2. Our Crown Prince squash has the same colour flesh. Spanish summer would be too hot for me too. How lovely to have fresh almonds.

    1. Hi sue, I couldn't get crown prince seeds this year so am envious of your harvests! I need to do a seed order shortly so will see if they're available again.
      The almonds are really good, I'll be sad when we've eaten them all. But I also mustn't neglect the hazels we still have to crack open :)