Apart from the pepo species with its zucchini, pumpkins, patisson, patidous and the amusing spaghetti squash, there are still two other species that contain treasures: the species maxima and the species moschata. They are even considered to be the the best squashes.
The species maxima
This is the best of all. It is the floret of squash maxima and there are many varieties. The maxima are easy to cultivate in the moderate climate of the Centre and North of France. You can easily distinguish them from their cousins, the moschata species thanks to their leaves that are little lobed, almost round and especially thanks to their peduncle, big, round and thick and covered with fibrillations that give them a spongy appearance. These squashes exist in all sizes in all shapes and with varied colours.
Some of the most famous varieties:
The bright red pumpkin of Etampes
It is undoubtedly the best known due to the anteriority of its cultivation in the garden. In the last century and until the 60s or 70s, it was very often cultivated. It is true, that it is a magnificent squash, with its brilliant brick red colour and of good size. However, we nowadays know that its taste doesn't match its appearance. Very largely supplanted by other varieties that appeared about thirty years ago, its soft flesh is not very tasty and is generally used in soup with milk or cream.
The blue pumpkin from Hungary
As its name suggests this pumpkin comes from the East. It is one of the favourites of squash lovers. Round in shape, a little ribbed, it is light in colour with a nice blue-green and its flesh is thick, firm and orange. Its size is not excessive which is of a great advantage when you do not have a large family. It weighs about 3 kilos on average. It is not too demanding to cultivate, provided it is fed correctly at the beginning and with a scanty but regular watering. It is not often present on market stalls, where you find more well-known varieties. However, its seeds are not hard to find.
The black squash of Eysines
This one does not go unnoticed! Not by its size, but by its brownish skin covered with corky warts. These warts are very variable in number: sometimes scattered, sometimes covering the whole squash. When you see it, you can wonder if it is really edible. Go straight for it: it is delicious with a special taste, close to the nut, which makes excellent gratins and soups. If you have some left, keep it as a decoration: it will intrigue many of your visitors.
We do not need to present it anymore. It is part of these squashes that appeared twenty years ago and it quickly imposed itself by its taste between nut and like hazelnut, its reasonable size, its flesh being well suited to many preparations like for example: puree, gratin, soufflé, soup etc. Some people also eat it raw and grated. It only has one downside you have to be well equipped to cut its very hard bark. Of Japanese origin, there are many sub-varieties: Uchuki Kuri, Red Kuri (the best) French pumpkin, bigger and pear shaped, Blue Kuri etc. It is an important source of vitamins and trace elements, which can be enjoyed in the heart of winter.
Marina di Chioggia
Of dark green colour and blistered with large warts, this is a squash that doesn't look great. It requires space, at least 2 sqm, and can reach a respectable size: 5 to 6 kg. However, when it is found in a kitchen garden, it certainly indicates the presence of a gardener, expert in squashes. For it is without any doubt the best of the maxima species. Not particularly demanding neither on the field conditions nor on the climate conditions, it requires the manure of a mature compost to help it reach maturity in October. You can try to curb its expansion by cutting it, but then you will have larger squashes. It has a dark orange flesh, thick and sweet, and can be kept without any problem in a temperate room until February – March. If you have a very large specimen, you can cut the flesh into cubes and freeze it for later use.
Text by Simone Collet
"Whoever rubs against it gets stung" states the proverb. And yet, the common nettle has a large number of assets
Each of us can find, in the depth of our memory, the painful remembrance of an unfortunate fall in a patch of stinging nettles and the terrible stinging that instantly affected whole areas of our skin!
Fortunately, the burning itch does not last long; and this little loved plant has more merit than one might think. Indeed, its assets exceed its modest appearance, especially in the area of nutrition.
In spring and autumn, the leaves of young nettles that have not yet flowered are rich in antioxidants and have a high content of vitamins E and C, especially C. On a weight-for-weight basis, they contain three to four times more vitamin C than an orange! They are also rich in precious minerals such as magnesium, zinc, calcium and especially iron, a key element in the fight against anaemia. In addition, nettles eliminate the toxins at the origin of acne and other skin disease
Nettles and famine
The nutritious qualities of the nettle plant helped the alpine population to survive the last great famine that struck Switzerland in the early 19th century.
In 1815, the eruption of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia released an amount of energy equivalent to 170,000 atomic bombs from Hiroshima. This disaster killed 90,000 people in the area and, in the years that followed, claimed thousands more victims in Europe and Switzerland.
The ashes from this eruption rose to an altitude of 30 km and circled the earth, obscuring the sky and causing a drop in temperature of -2.4° C in the northern hemisphere.
Summers without sunshine destroyed the crops. To survive, people had to eat grass and nettles. In mountainous areas, people sought them in the most inaccessible locations, on the edges of cliffs, at the bottom of ravines, etc. A good number of people lost their lives for a handful of nettles
The benefits of the common nettle
Nowadays, nettle lovers find these plants readily along paths and rivers, in abandoned fields and on the edge of a forest where they enjoy favourable growing conditions.
The whole plant should be picked and the fresh upper leaves removed at home. As a precaution, avoid leaves in the lower part of the plant that can be soiled by animal dung and nettles that grow on roadsides or near fields treated with chemicals.
Nettles can be eaten by cooking the leaves like spinach. You can make soup, salad, pies, even herbal tea. It is often found in the beauty products section of specialised stores.
The nettle strategy
The reason that nettles so bitingly sanction those foolhardy enough to come into contact with it, is because it has developed an effective defence against the greed of herbivores and insects.
Its stinging trichome hairs inject histamine into the skin of someone who rubs against them, which introduces penetrating acids under the skin. The intense burning sensation that follows causes intruders to instantly flee! To defend against insects, nettles grow a bristling fur on their leaves that is visible to the naked eye, preserving the plant's vessels and preventing the predators from reaching its sap
Picked in the wild, the common nettle costs less than a radish! The plant's sophisticated strategies can do nothing against a wise gardener: just put on gloves, get a pair of scissors and go pick a goodly load. There is no lingering danger of stings: as soon as it is picked, the nettle loses its sting. Knowing this, why abstain?
1818 Nettle soup
- Harvest an armful of nettles.
- Remove and wash the tender leaves.
- Heat two tablespoons of oil in a pot.
- Slowly cook a sliced onion on low heat.
- Add 4 peeled potatoes cut into cubes.
- Add the nettle leaves.
- Cover with water, salt and pepper.
- Bring to a boil and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
The 2018 variant
Mix the vegetables, then add 3/4 of a cup of cream (100 – 200 ml)
Heat up and enjoy.
- Mince an onion.
- Chop up a clove of garlic
- Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan
- Cook the garlic and onion over low heat
- Add the cleaned nettle leaves and fry them for 10 minutes
- Serve with fried potatoes.
Once the vegetables have been harvested, we organise ourselves to find out how to cook them. Our vegetable tops (leaves) often end up with compost or garbage, but do you really know that many tops can be cooked?
The tops of radishes, beetroots, broccoli, kohlrabi, fennel, turnips or carrots will bring originality to your dishes.
The tops are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, but be aware not all can be eaten. So we avoid that the tops of an eggplant, peppers and other tomatoes because the leaves of solanaceae are highly toxic.
In order to cook the tops we have first to sort them and to remove the yellowed or damaged leaves before washing them. The same is true for branches that are too big or too hard.
With the tops you can make delicious soups, purees or omelettes, gratins, quiches or you simply can enjoy the tops in salads.
Give free rein to your imagination.
Ingredients for 4 people:
• The tops of 2 bunches of radishes from the garden (but also works with other tops)
• 1 table spoon of olive oil
• 1 onion
• 1 clove of garlic
• 1 big potato
• 1 litre of water
• Salt of Guérande
• Optional: celery salt, cream
Sort the radish tops and put the most damaged ones on the compost; wash them in cold water and drain them.
Wash and peel the potato, the onion and the garlic clove. Slice garlic and onion, cut the potato into small cubes.
Put the oil to heat in a large saucepan. Fry the chopped onion and the garlic for a few minutes. Add the tops and let them fry on high fire for 5 minutes while stirring. Add the diced potato, stir and cover with water. Add salt without hesitation, because the tops are tasteless. Personally I love to add a little celery salt, but it is no obligation.
Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Mix everything and adjust the spice. For the great gourmets you will add a spoon of fresh cream before serving the dish.
FIVE ALLOTMENT ASSOCIATIONS WERE REWARDED AT THE OCCASION OF THE STUDY SESSION IN KORTRIJK.
1) THE DIPLOMA FOR INNOVATIVE PROJECTS WAS AWARDED TO:
1) The Swinbrook Road Allotments to the North of Carterton (GB)
The Allotment site has 45 full plots on a 1.22 hectare site to the North of Carterton on the edge of the Cotswolds.
The aim of their projects is to improve the soil and working conditions for all the allotment plot holders on Swinbrook Road Allotments and to increase the popularity of the allotments in the local community.
They have improved the site facilities using several innovative techniques, such as reusing materials which would have otherwise gone to landfill or burnt.
One can mention among others:
It is felt that the plot holders on this site have used great initiative in acquiring the above materials their imaginative and 'innovative activities' have greatly improved the facilities of the site not only to the benefit of their members but also their local community. In the process of doing the above have also minimised air pollution, landfill requirements, smoke pollution from burning treated timber and reduced the need for many road miles resulting in benefits to the wider community.
II) THE DIPLOMA FOR ECOLOGICAL GARDENING WAS AWARDED TO:
1) De Roshaag in Peer (B)
De Roshaag is a young and small project, with 17 gardens and one show/demo garden, an example for all ecological parks in Flanders. In 2017 the project was rewarded the Ecological garden label with the highest possible score.
Together with the city council they are working on the area surrounding the gardens to make the park more attractive, nature friendly and welcoming for the neighbourhood.
There is a composting space where the entire city can learn how to compost. There are regular demonstrations and all kinds of different composting methods tested.
For insects, birds and hedgehogs there is much place to crawl, feed and sleep in and around this park. There are dead hedges made of pruning materials, ideal for insects and hedgehogs. Multiple insect-hotels for wild bees and others, a herb garden and several wild flowerbeds to feed and hibernate in.
There are areas next to the gardens which contain wild vegetation. In these areas special attention went to the different layers: the canapé, shrubs and the undergrowth. They tried to mimic a real forest.
They are working with a beekeeper to produce local honey on the spot.
No pesticides are used in the park. Workshops and demonstrations are given to advice alternatives. In the show garden they experiment with new techniques and different plant species.
All gardeners share a common shed with a composting toilet. This reduces the space needed for individual sheds. On top there is a green roof and a small solar panel for the light and toilet. All remaining water is used to water the gardens in dry periods.
There are a few manual water pumps spread throughout the project as well.
Workshops and presentations are given for the gardeners, neighbourhood, schools and all other people that are interested.
100 % of the allotment gardeners take part in the ecological gardening.
2) The association De Hoge Weide in Utrecht (NL)
The Amateur Gardeners' Association De Hoge Weide is located in Park Groenewald in Papendorp in the polder of Utrecht since 2003. The park-like design, the combination with the office villas and the public character of the garden site are unique in the Netherlands. In 2010 the association started the project natural gardening. In 2017, they received four dots for the natural management of the park.
The members of the association do on a regular bases general work in the park and the theme gardens in which natural gardening has become commonplace. Therefore De Hoge Weide can proudly report that about 90% of members in their own maintain their garden in a natural way.
Four of the five theme gardens on De Hoge Weide are laid out to promote the diversity of flora and fauna.
The project: "The Nursery" with its own garden for the pre-cultivation of plants provides members with information about sowing and growing plants. The result is planted along the banks. A new project with early spring bloomers is currently under development. The association also started a project concerning renewable energy.
MANAGEMENT AND MAINTENANCE
The maintenance of the park is organised by the working group: "Natural Management". According to a schedule, work is carried out and activities are organised for members and visitors. The working group also identifies problems in individual gardens.
On a regular basis workshops are organised where knowledge of members is shared with other members.
The workshop: Help, I have a garden! provides new members with an introduction to natural gardening and helps them on their way in their new garden.
The signposts and information boards lead visitors through the garden site. The large information boards in the theme gardens have an educational value. A map with a walking route is available for visitors. A large part of the visitors work in the offices in and around the park.
3) The garden site De Groote Braak in Amsterdam (NL)
About 6 years ago, Garden Site de Groote Braak introduced natural gardening. It started with an inspection by the AVVN and an advice for the next few years. The Committee on Nature and Environment was installed and slowly a shift was made on the garden site. In addition to more traditional gardening, parts of the park were maintained in a natural way. The last 2 years were given an extra boost with the support of an advisor to the AVVN. This resulted in the obtaining of the National Quality Mark Natural Gardening with the maximum of 4 dots on the ladybug.
REUSE OF RAW MATERIALS
Finely chopped materials
Pruning wood is shredded and reused. Chopped materials are used in the public green parts of the garden site and by gardeners in the private gardens.
Garden waste from the public green of the garden site and the individual gardens is also composted. At the moment the compost is only used for the public parts, soon we hope to have plenty that also gardeners can benefit and use it on their gardens. In addition, we motivate the gardeners to compost on their gardens.
Glass, paper, grease, household waste and plastic are collected separately and this can be recycled again.
Butterfly garden, insect hotel, bee hive, "Stobbenwal", Hedgehog castle In several places, small insect boxes are made. There is a stobbenwal (rows of branches and stumps deposited for animals) for soil organisms and the 1st bee hive is populated. In order to provide good food supplies, a butterfly garden has been laid out with several banks of wild flowers.
Toad pool and nature friendly banks, floating islands.
Besides a place for amphibians, birds such as ducks have found a place to stay. An educational trail along the toad-pool was laid out.
BEDS, HERB GARDEN AND LANES
Recently, De Groote Braak started a herb garden. Garden members can pick these herbs for their own use.
Two years ago the garden site started the phased mowing, since then this has been expanded. The aim of this way of mowing is to create an as large as possible diversity of plants and animals.
The shop is only sells nature-friendly garden products and cleaning agents.
HIKING TRAILS AND INFORMATION SIGNS
There is a circular walk on the park that runs along the special places in the park. In these places, information signs are placed with explanations.
Via the garden newspaper, website, newsletters, workshops, information signs, guided tours and additional explanations to new gardeners, all gardeners are informed about natural gardening.
4) Garden site Wijkergouw in Amsterdam (NL)
After a 2-year project, the garden site acquired the National Quality Mark Natural Gardening, with the maximum score of 4 dots. An estimated 75% of gardeners participate in natural gardening. On a regular basis the members alternately organise debates and practical lectures concerning the ecological practices.
INDIGENOUS FLORA AND FAUNA
The Water land north of the IJ, on the old promenade near Schellingwoude, existed an impenetrable wildernesses until the 11th century. Garden site Wijkergouw was built in 1962 for and by city dwellers. The changing time spirit is visible in the gardens; Special nature-friendly projects are side by side with more traditional garden designs.
Good water management ensures dry feet in this area. Gardeners work together with neighbours and government (Water Authority) to help with dredging and maintain banks.
FAUNA, MIGRATION AND INTERNATIONALLY VULNERABLE POPULATIONS
The gardeners strive to secure migration opportunities for internationally vulnerable populations with guide species such as the ring snake, the Nordic vole mouse and the otter.
INSECTS, BIRDS AND BATS
The beekeeper association, local residents and gardeners have together set up a separate terrain as a bee-park with melliferous plant and honey bees. Scattered around the park live bats in special nest boxes. There is a bird boulevard with housing for all kinds of birds. Birdwatchers track observations and count among other things protected birds such as blue heron, swifts, Kingfisher, eared Owl and Sparrow hawk.
COMPOSTING, WATER AND SOIL LIVE
In the ' Composting forest' garden waste is recycled, besides composting on one's own garden. Members bring garden waste and collect soil, wood is shredded. There is a place for the exchange of plants: free to bring or take.
The playground is available for different ages with a water pump and a water course, playhouse, climbing frame, swings and slide.
CLUBHOUSE, SHOP AND LITTLE TERRAIN
The farm Arbeid Adelt serves as a clubhouse and 'nerve center' for the gardeners. A few years ago an authentic farmhouse garden and a herbal corner were built. The gardeners meet there, enjoy healthy lunch from their own garden and attend lectures and workshops.
COMMUNICATION, COOPERATION AND CO-USE
A signposted hiking trail over Wijkergouw and 5 neighbouring garden sites is open to the public during the season.
More ideas await realisation, such as: establishing a common greenhouse for growing plants and vegetables, rent out square meter trays to interested parties, setting up a circulation centre for swap objects, building a learning path for children.
Victory Garden allotments had lots to celebrate at their annual BBQ. It was a lovely afternoon and a great event. Lots of plot-holders turned up which is always a good start.
All our plots had been judged a couple of days prior to the BBQ. The celebrations started with the award of a trophy and certificate to Denise Chappel for 'The Best Plot'. Denise has worked really hard on her plot and the results are quite stunning. Michael Egan and John Hattersley both received a 'Highly Commended' certificate.
This was followed by a trophy and certificate awarded to Rebecca Chesmore having 'The Best Newcomers Plot'. Rebecca has only had the plot since October last year which is now full of healthy crops. A 'Highly Commended Newcomer' certificate was awarded to Richard Furnival.
Our communal store (an old school porta-cabin) is on its last legs but has given us many years of service but has reached a condition which makes it unsafe to use. We had the offer of a large concrete garage 24ft x 10ft and we removed and transported it across the city of Leeds in two vans. It was really heavy work and thanks go out to all who participated in its transportation and re-erection. So our second celebration was the official opening of our new communal building which is looking rather resplendent. The honour was bestowed upon me to cut the red ribbon and officially open it, no half measures here, it was done proper.
The third celebration. You will have heard by previous information that I have been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to Horticulture in Yorkshire and my fellow plot-holders gave me three cheers at our last allotment meeting. Although I am extremely honoured to get the award, I do get quite embarrassed when being publicly praised and I thought that wasn't too bad, that done, I can relax a little now. How wrong I was; the Chairman and the Treasurer called me over and then started to tell everyone the tale about all the things I had done in particular for our site since I got a plot 20 odd years ago. Then one of our ladies wheeled up a wheel barrow, and what a surprise, in the barrow was the most amazing cake I have ever seen in my life, not only that but a card signed by nearly all our plot-holders on site as well. I was really touched that my friends on the allotment would do that for me and how they had managed to keep me in the dark about it as I usually know what's going on. What a surprise.
There was in actual fact a further celebration as we had a scarecrow competition judged on the day. Graham and Pat Barker were joint first with Linda and Angela from plot 14E. They will receive certificates a little later.
Phil Gomersall, Secretary, Victory Garden Allotments Association, Leeds
Horticulture is appreciated in Great-Britain and the allotments are in the focus
A president and a chairman of the English allotment gardeners were honoured.
As you read before Phil Gomersall, president of the English allotment garden federation received this year the BEM (British Empire Medal) for his services to horticulture in Yorkshire.
Before him Allan Rees, chairman of the English allotment garden federation at that time, received in 2009 the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for his services to the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners and to the Royal British Legion in South Wales.
Congratulations to both
Secretary general of the International Office du Coin de Terre et des Jardins Familiaux