Harvesttide, or Saved by the Squash
Thursday was the Harvest Moon, the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox, a time when before the advent of electricity farmers took advantage of the light to keep on working in their fields. Saturday was the harvest festival party at the local farm that keeps us supplied with kale, melon, and other vegetable goodies. We followed a path of quotes laid out between the rows of vegetables, enjoying the view of the heart-shaped leaves of green manure buckwheat and of the bleating Krainer Steinschafe, a heritage breed of sheep. Then Sunday, the first day of fall, we cooked and ate our own harvest:
This is as local as it gets, from balcony to plate. Yes, I recently discovered a butternut squash growing between the wooden bench and the railing. This was my pet project of the gardening year: growing squash in containers. I had spent most of the summer fretting over our two squash plants. One was flourishing in its large IKEA-style plastic bag accommodation, while the other in the large concrete planter looked tired, faded, wilted, unable to summon up the necessary energy to blossom. Since it takes two squash to tango, I had given up hope of anything beyond beautiful blossoms on one plant. With the change in weather from incredibly hot and dry to cooler and rainy, fortune’s wheel turned, and blossoms started to appear on the plant in the concrete planter. It started to catch up to its companion. And then during a balcony clean-up action a little over a week ago, I discovered this:
For the crust:
200 g spelt flour
100 g chickpea flour
1 tsp salt
50 ml olive oil
125 ml cold water
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the olive oil and incorporate into the dough. Add the water and stir/knead until you have a smooth dough. Let it rest in a covered bowl for at least 30 minutes.
For the filling:
1 onion, diced
One half of a butternut squash, grated
1 tsp cumin seeds
Freshly ground black pepper
Sheep’s cheese, goat cheese, feta, ricotta (whatever kind and amount you prefer)
Sauté the onion in olive oil. Add the squash and cook until it is tender. Add the cumin, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Remove from heat and add the cheese.
Separate the dough into six pieces. Roll each out into an oval. Place one sixth of the filling on half of the oval, leaving a space as wide as your thumb between the edge and the filling. With a wet finger, moisten this space (in theory this will help the two halves of the dough stick together and avoid filling spilling out and creating a mess on your baking sheet). Fold the other half of the oval over the filling. Roll up the sides and press down on them with a fork to seal the two halves of the dough together. With the fork tines, prick the top of the pocket a few times to make an escape route for steam.
Bake at 200°C for 20 minutes or until golden. Serve with the chutney of your choosing (we dug out a tiny jar medlar chutney left over from last year’s harvest) or a mixture of sour cream or yogurt and chives or another fresh herb.
There are many things that I am thankful for this harvesttide, but it’s the squash that best symbolizes the irrepressible life force that moves forward and flourishes given the opportunity. There are at least three more small squash growing on the two plants now. Even if it cools down before they fully mature, I’m content. What have you harvested this year that is worthy of celebration?