Living on a block of land (about 4acres) has endless possibilities but it doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll ever be fully ‘self sufficient’. I have to be realistic with the things that I could buy and grow. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are two things I’ve tried to grow for the last few years because we use alot of them – I use them in my home made museli, we add them to salads and I’d like to feed them to the chickens (they’re good for worming). In an ideal world I’d have a glut and could just eat them as a healthy snack as well. You need to grow specific varieties to get edible seeds – the regular ones have an outer hull that involves too much time and effort to remove to make it worth while.
A success this year – I got edible seeds from my Austrian Oil Seed pumpkins – they were good to eat as soon as they were spooned from the pumpkin and to store them all I needed to do was s to dry them on the windowsill out so a great success in that regard:
Last year (before the veggie garden had been established) I tried to grow these pumpkins in the orchard. I planted the seedlings in big holes filled with heaps of goodness but had no success, the same this year. I think the wind and competing with kikuyu was too much for them. They also didn’t get watered as well as I intended. In contrast the garden bed I planted them into this year gave me a great plant with four large pumpkins. Unlike most pumpkins this didn’t trail but was a fairly compact plant. I had no idea when to harvest my great looking pumpkins. They turned from green to an orange stripey colour which matched what was on Kings website so I picked one. The seeds were easy to spoon out and I put them onto a tray to dry out. The bits of the pumpkin that stuck plus the white film that covered the seeds was easily rubbed off.
This first pumpkin I harvested gave me 38g of seed. Comparing this to the spray free NZ grown seeds I bought from Huckleberry Farms recently meant i had $1.09 worth of seed. So a little deflating when putting it in this financial perspective. Assuming I get the same from all four pumpkins I only have $4 worth of seed which will only give me a few months worth of museli making – certainly none left for snacks or for the chickens! So next year I need to significantly increase the number of plants I have. However, I know what’s happened to my seeds. They haven’t been sprayed or erradicated so for something I eat every day in my museli I’m happy with that.
So the seeds of the Austrain Oil Seed were great but the flesh was a disappointing squash-like texture. The first one I harvested I thought I may have picked too early. I ended up cutting it up and cooking it in the oven (when I had it on for something else). I fed it to the chickens. I can’t say they raved about it but at least it wasn’t wasted. Two weeks later I’ve harvested another and the flesh is the same. Basically a bland squash I would eat if there was nothing else in my garden….
Warning – an unsuccessful story. For the last three years I’ve tried to grow sunflowers on our block (using both varieties that are suitable for eating the seeds and those that are not). I’ve not been very successful – I think our still exposed site is a struggle for them. Last year the variety I managed to grow wasn’t one that was easy to hull. Even the chickens weren’t impressed. This year I belatedly decided to give it another go, really just to use up my seeds. I didn’t get my seedlings in the ground until early Jan and they’re not in a protected spot but they have managed to grow and even flower. I remember now that the seeds weren’t the easy to eat ones so I’ll just appreciate the flowers and make a note to buy appropriate seeds for next year.
Sometimes I think I’m trying to achieve too much at once – if I can achieve just one thing (this time it’s the pumpkin seeds) then I should be happy with that.