Does nature have a 2nd-best? If so: pumpkins

It’s fitting that my previous post about eggs (nominally) is followed by one on pumpkins, because pumpkins are my second-favorite natural form. After eggs, to belabor a point. And when pumpkins combine with road tripping, watch out, because as Max says in the “Hart to Hart” opening preamble, it was murder!

OK not really OF COURSE. I just mean that after road tripping this time of year a lot a lot a lot of pumpkins appear at my house, like the pretty good haul in the lower right photo, from Lompoc last week. Road-trip souvenirs join the inevitable previous others which have been locally procured. For a couple of years, we had a fabulous fancy-pumpkin purveyor at Orange County farmers markets, selling a ton of heretofore-unseen varieties, including many good for cooking and eating—that’s one year’s Fresno-area-grown selection in the upper right. Combing through my photos for evidence of my pumpkin history, I turned up some others, but not all. Enough, though, I think.102115_2333_Doesnatureh1.jpg

You might notice that bottom left… not an actual pumpkin. It’s Ashley, our so-we-think Siberian forest cat, who came up out of the creek half-dead several years ago and has lived here happily since. Before rooting around in my photos I started with a couple of searches, and this overhead shot turned up. I’d labeled it pumpkin because, well, when Ash sits in a perfect loaf like that she reminds me of my favorite cucurbit.

At the left middle there, one of my slow-cooker experiments with pumpkin. Turns out to be an excellent way to cook pumpkin for purée, though without the caramelization that roasting develops. But there’s a lot to be said for the push-the-button-Frank ease of slow cooker cooking—about which more, much much more, anon. Top middle, excellent pumpkin doughnuts made with the leftover purée of some 2012 specimen, and bottom middle, roasting kabocha crescents from December 2014. In the middle, a potimarron or red kuri, one of the very finest squashes extant. The marron in the French name refers to its chestnut flavor, but that’s only part of its charms. Not easy to find in regular civilian provisioning, though—if you see one, grab it.

Well, the pumpkins are in. So. Now, for those that escape cooking, the question becomes, how long will they stay before I can bear to part with them? Without going into specifics: A scandalously long time.

Eggs, and the Tuesday farmers market

I really should go to the Tuesday farmers market in Irvine Regional Park more often. It’s small, but the beauty and perfection of the site is inarguable, and there are enough vendors with good stuff to cover the bases. Today I needed to find some decent eggs, and Ray’s Ranch from Temecula was there with theirs, which the lady behind the table said are from chickens that walk around among the rest of the ranch animals, “eating everything you see on the table here.”

Tuesday FM Irvine Regional Park 29 September 2015

This is good. The current vogue for self-described so-called soi-disant “vegetarian” chickens and eggs is utter and complete bogosity. Chickens are unrepentant, insatiable omnivores. If you’ve ever kept a flock, or even visited one where it lived, you know this. I used to let ours, before they were decimated by an unwell bobcat, run in the garden from time to time to clear out bugs and grubs. They loved that. And bugs, I hasten to remind, are not vegetable. Then, back into the coop enclosure, ladies, and here’s a handful of supplemental scratch. Pick a snail off a seedling? Chuck it in among them and they’ll scuffle for nomming rights. I gave them lots of kitchen trimmings, too—though not meat, it’s true. But vegetarians they are not. Srsly. When one of their number dies, the others will set upon it with their sharp beaks without a scintilla of sentimentality.

But no matter, no more chicken coop in my garden—three dozen nice brown eggs in the fridge, though.