|So pretty! Photo by Caitlin Battersby|
So there is a nip in the air, the colors are rich and vibrant and the winter squash is here. Yep it's FALL! I always say my favorite time of year is fall and well, I certainly can't complain about this year.
I love the fall because not only do I love the weather - typically dry and sunny but not too hot for this Pac NW born and raised girl (Anything over about 65 degrees is too hot for me!). The prairie is absolutely stunning this time of year - the golds, yellows and reds of fall crops and fields and crisp blue ocean and majestic mountains. And on the farm it is a time of year to really relish is all the bounty of the crops that we spent the season slaving over.
Five tons of potatoes harvested? Done. 50,000 onions pulled up? Done. 4 acres of dry beans? Almost done. And then of course there are all the winter crops - the cabbages, the turnips, the parsnip and the rutabagas, the beets, the carrots and the still to come brussel sprouts. Not to mention the winter squash. The gorgeous, glorious, scrumptious winter squash.
Winter squash has a LONG tradition on Ebey's Prairie. Ask any old-timer from central Whidbey and they will probably tell you they spent their childhood hoeing acres upon acres of winter squash. My dad still likes to get out with a hoe every once in a while in our squash patch to show us young 'uns "how it's done." My grandfather and great-grandfather before him grew squash and hauled them down in a wagon to the Coupeville wharf to be transported to the big city for sale. The "barn" house I currently live in at one time was used to store both grain and winter squash. My great-grandmother Georgie used to wait til my great-grandfather Harry (her husband) went out of town for a few days and then she would call our local grocer, the Pickards at Prairie Center Mercantile, and tell them to "quick, come down and take some squash out of the squash barn before the old man gets back. Enough to pay off the tab!" (My great-grandfather was notorious for being a scrooge about money! And the Pickard's were known for generously carrying tabs for many of the farm families that would eventually be paid off in squash or Rockwell beans!).
Hubbards were generally the squash of choice here on the prairie in those days. Especially Sugar Hubbards which are still today grown by our neighbor Pioneer Produce (who, by the way, opens this weekend with their awesome trolley rides and pumpkin patch!). Back in those days you wanted a BIG squash with a thick heavy rind that would store for well, a good 6 months or more. Enough to feed a big hungry farm family for weeks. When I was a kid we would always get one, cut it open by throwing it on our concrete patio, take the chunks we needed for dinner and then leave the rest sitting out on the patio in the cool autumn weather to use as we got to it.
But people and eating habits change. Pioneer Produce sells most of their Sugar Hubbard squashes pre-cut and pre-packaged. Why? Because most families today don't know what to do with a 30 lbs squash. Ease and convenience are the name of the game.
Nonetheless, I can't help myself in growing a wide selection of the many gorgeous winter squashes and pumpkins. We have about 8 different varieties this year - in a mix of sizes, shapes, colors and flavors. (I leave the Sugar Hubbard squash growing to our neighbors - they do it too well!). Warty heirlooms, smooth blue pumpkins, red-orange tear-drop kabocha types, netted pie pumpkins. So much fun! So delicious! So...stop by at the Coupeville or Bayview farmer's market today and pick out a selection of winter squash. They are great for gracing your fall season table (they will keep for months inside a house) and then, when you are ready, eat them!
And of course, we have LOADS more food at the market (it is harvest time after all) including:
* Potatoes - all types and in 10 lb storage bags!
* Onions! Cooking, sweet, red, yellow, cippolinis....
* Salad greens - mesclun, arugula, spinach
* Frisee - Oh my gosh it is GOOD too!
* Tomatoes - red slicers, cherries, heirloom mix and San Marzano's to boot!
* Shelling beans
* Garlic (Seed garlic at Bayview this week. Will be at Coupeville next week!)
Hope to see you at market!
Willowood Farm of Ebey's Prairie