Love your ugly veg

There’s been a fair amount of coverage in the media recently about wonky veg, and the supermarkets’ costly distaste for it. Every year, an (almost) unbelievable amount of “imperfect” fruit and veg is rejected, and left rotting in large putrid piles. The travesty is that it’s not about taste or nutrition, it’s all about looks. Supermarkets want model veg that only subscribes to their pre-approved ideals; weight, size, colour, and finish. They’re just effectively throwing away perfectly good food.

Trug of ugly veg parsnips

I may well have won the ugly veg award this year, as my parsnips look as thought they’ve been cast under an ugly spell. I didn’t quite get the no-dig depths right in my parsnip bed, and the dry summer and lack of form mulch gave me twizzly roots and seemingly a new breed of mutant parsnip spawn.

Parsnips washed down

But I wanted to prove a point. No matter how ugly, twisted or gnarled my veg might be, it’s still perfectly edible. OK, so I had to lop off a few rusty bits of parsnip, but I still managed to finish up with a delicious spicy parsnip soup.

Parsnip soup in the pot

If there’s one thing that growing my own food has taught me, it’s that it’s not about looks; it’s all about personality! And that even the ugliest of veg – grown for pennies organically at home – can become the tastiest dish come dinner time.


Bertha the pumpkin

I didn’t have much joy with my munchkin pumpkins. Actually… scratch that. I didn’t have *any* joy with my munchkin pumpkins this year. I had visions of the tiny pumpkins merrily hanging from my arch amidst the fronds of Spanish flag flowers… but after a slow start and an (apparently) cooler summer, the fruits just withered and went soft.

Lucy, Tortoise the cat & Bertha the pumpkin

Lucy, Tortoise the cat & Bertha the pumpkin

Luckily all was not lost in the pumpkin department. Bertha the knucklehead pumpkin was romping away of her own accord. I’m not sure why I decided to give my pumpkin a name, and a gender. It just happens like that sometimes.

She grew well despite minimal attention from me – I unceremoniously shoved the pumpkin plant on an old compost site around June (I think) by the blackthorn hedging, and watered sporadically.

Knucklehead pumpkin growing in September

Knucklehead pumpkin

The vine scrambled and grew and grew, flowered when it was about 6 metres long, and grew more to about 10 metres, and Bertha was born.

Bertha my knucklehead pumpkin

Bertha my knucklehead pumpkin

I harvested Bertha at the weekend because my fingernail could no longer puncture the skin of the pumpkin, and the stem from which she was growing was rock hard. These are two great indications that pumpkins are ready to harvest, so I took a sharp knife and cut the cord, giving her plenty of stem to encourage a healthy cure process (where the skin hardens, goes orange and makes the pumpkins perfect for storing).

Tortoise is not so impressed...

Tortoise is not so impressed…

I was pretty pleased with Bertha. She’s not large by any stretch of the imagination, but I grew her from seed (thanks Marshalls Seeds) and she’s the biggest pumpkin I’ve grown in eight years of my journey to the good life. My previous record was an 8lb butternut squash. Bertha will be left to cure for now, and I’ve got visions of pumpkin pie and pumpkin soup next month. At the weekend I went to the Bromham Apple Day festival in Bedfordshire and bought a small pumpkin loaf, which was incredibly tasty! So now pumpkin bread is also on the menu too.

Knucklehead pumpkin