Cleaning up the odds and ends of summer

It is mid-October and the forests and fields are as beautiful as they can possibly be at any time of the year.

It is as though we are being treated to a spectacular final view, despite the fact that we are watching the end of the life cycle for much of our local flora. I like the word “senescence.” It sounds much nicer to me than dying, fading away, croaking, ceasing or even going to sleep.

I don’t particularly like the Wikipedia definition though: “The gradual deterioration of functional characteristics.” That is not how I think of plants.

“Functional characteristics” does not enter my mind as I watch leaves change color for no obvious reason other than to delight my view. What could be more functionally valuable to anyone than to be awed by nature?

My column a few weeks ago about winter squash inspired me to go out and buy some, since the only one I intentionally grew was a spaghetti squash. I was not really sure it was a spaghetti squash until I cooked it, however. I have haphazardly saved seed from a “volunteer” spaghetti squash that mysteriously showed up in my garden about four years ago simply by leaving one uneaten fruit outside on my picnic table over the winter, each winter.

It is generally not recommended to save seed from members of the squash/pumpkin/gourd/cucumber family because all these different vegetables are related enough to cross breed and produce “mystery” fruit the following year. That’s OK, I am an adventuristic guy sometimes and willing to take a chance on a vegetable. This one turned out delicious, despite having brown and not yellow skin.

So I bought five small, winter squash at a roadside stand consisting of three “mini” Jack B Little, pumpkins, one Delicata and one acorn squash. This cost me $14 and some change. After the “price-sticker shock” wore off, I decided I had gotten a bargain after all.

I plan to save seeds from all three of these as well as a butternut I bought earlier and a turban squash I bought at a different road side stand. At $4 or more a packet for seed, I figured I got at least $20 worth of seed plus the mystery game of seeing how they turn out next year.

If you carve a pumpkin this Halloween, consider how many tons of pumpkins could be grown from the fruit of just a single one. Now, think about how many thousands are harvested and carved each year as decorations just here in New York. Seems like we could feed the world with a single crop of pumpkins! So, if you are feeling brave, save some seed from any winter squash by rinsing off the flesh and allowing them to dry on a paper towel. Store them in a paper envelope in a cool dry location and plant them randomly next spring in your garden. The randomness is part of the fun part.

I don’t usually include recipes in my columns, but this week I am feeling whimsical, so I will share an easy recipe for a delicious soup I just made.

Scoop out the seeds and cook a sweet winter squash or pumpkin until the flesh is soft. You can dry, toast and eat the seeds as well, if you want. Add about two cups of the squash to a quart of stock. I used vegetable stock, but chicken would also work. Bring to a boil and cook it for 15 minutes, whizz it up in your blender, like a smoothie and add a tablespoon of the best curry powder you can buy. Add a pint of half and half or better yet, heavy cream and it is done.

I also want to give a shout out to a few local herb businesses I have been introduced to in the past several years. I have used some of the salves from “Catskills Comfrey” (CatskillsComfrey.com) with very good results. Last year they introduced a product that contained CBD oil as part of the formula. Speaking of CBD, I also want to mention “Hudson Hemp” (HudsonHemp.com) as a source of organic hemp extract oil. I have been using CBD oil for a couple of years now as a pain reliever and have had great results as well. This is a first-person testimonial however and does not mean that any of you will have the same results. I always tell my students to beware of first-person testimonials, especially those from celebrities.

Finally, I found a local (Greene County) herb store (Stirredwater.com) that offers an excellent selection of all sorts of herbs, in all forms from raw to tinctures, many of which are locally sourced. In fact I traded them some of my Siberian ginseng for one of their products.

Reach the ‘whimsical’ Bob Beyfuss at rlb14@cornell.edu.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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