May, a month in between seasons, can be challenging for seasonal cooks. We have said goodbye to tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants, zucchinis, cucumbers, beans and stone fruits. Many of us have made sauces, preserved tomatoes in various forms to enjoy in the winter months only to look around in the garden and see there is not much to pick and bring inside for a meal.
However there is always the ubiquitous pumpkin this time of year. We are spoilt for choice. Their fascinating shapes, sizes and colours make it hard to choose. My favourite, because of its versatility and reliable sweetness, is the butternut. But my curiosity makes me grow other new varieties adding to the repertoire in the garden. Around about this time each year I look for a pumpkin I have not grown before, buy one from a farmer, bring it home, save all the seeds and cook the flesh. If the taste and texture deserves to regenerate I would plant a few seeds in the Spring. From this practice I now have more than fifteen varieties of pumpkin seeds to choose and sow each September.
Last week I bought a spaghetti squash from the Castlemaine Farmers Market. Spaghetti Squash is a mild flavoured winter vegetable and is a nutritious substitute for pasta. It’s low in carbohydrates and calories yet high in fibre and vitamins. It comes in different coloured skins ranging from white, yellow and orange. Usually it is an egg shape but I have seen a few odd shaped ones. It can be hard to find in supermarkets but is always reliably available at farmers markets.
To enjoy a spaghetti squash, cut it length wise, scoop out the seeds, brush the inside with olive oil and bake it cut side down for 40-50 minutes, depending on size, in 200c oven. If you can easily pierce it with a fork, it’s done. When you turn the cooked squash over - Aha! It looks just like strands of spaghetti. Scrape out the strands with a fork and top it off with your preferred seasoning or sauce. Treat it like you would spaghetti or pasta - top it with butter or cheese, garlic, marinara sauce, bolognaise, or ragu. You have yourself an easy, delicious and nutritious meal.
It is not too late to plant winter vegetables in May. If you plant them now you can start harvesting some in late June through to September. It may be too late to start sowing seeds for some and you can buy seedlings from local nurseries. When buying seedlings, it is helpful to ask where the seedlings were cultivated. Seedlings grown in and around where you live will have a better chance of growing successfully. If the seeds were cultivated in a different climate zone, they have to spend their energy to acclimatise to the weather and soil condition. The result is later and/or poorer yield than if they had a good start in similar climate and soil conditions.
... so what’s for dinner?
These are some vegetables that can still be planted in May. It is by no means an exclusive list. The earlier you plant them, the faster you can harvest
Broad beans - plants from seeds
Garlic - plant from cloves
Asian greens - early yield - ready in 6 weeks
Peas, and snow peas
Rocket - early yield
Spinach - early yield
Happy planting for winter months and comfort cosy cooking when you feel the cold!