I found another remarkable pumpkin, this time at a roadside stand miles from where I found the orange one I featured last week.
This beautiful winter squash is larger than the other one and has a chunky shape without the inset ribs. More like a roundish watermelon.
It’s mostly a deep green – almost black – with lovely white stripes, spots and a sprinkling of orange.
I asked if it had a name as a variety… nope. Just another calabaza. I think naming everything and saving and classifying specific varieties may be a European trait. It may also explain our collective neuroses about laws, codes, hedge sizes, etc… take the good with the bad, I suppose.
Here’s my new video on this beautiful find:
This one is a lot different from my previous market find, though I’m nearly 100% certain it’s the same species.
And that one, again, is different from these pumpkins a friend is growing just up the road:
The other day I was riding in a friend’s car and passed a roadside stand in another town that had what looked like a solid black pumpkin. Unfortunately, my friend was in a hurry to get home and I didn’t want to bother him, so I let it drift by…
…you know, I think I may be a pumpkin kleptomaniac.
As I collect and catalog varieties, we will set goals for what we want to breed, picking traits and discarding others as the genetics allow. I have half a mind to just get the craziest collection of varieties I can, then plant them all together a couple of times, then save my favorite results and inbreed those lines.
For now I’m having fun in the collecting and cataloging stage… but the planting madness is coming soon. I can feel it.
The Top 3 Highest Calorie Survival Crops For Fall/Winter Gardening
Unlike the spring and summer, fall is a time when nature is winding down. Depending on how far north you live, this may be an almost complete cessation of growth with frozen soil and plants buried beneath snow and ice… or it may be in some half-living state where most everything is brown but there are still vibrant green patches of cold-loving weeds such as wild mustard.
Almost all the best staple crops for survival grow in the spring and summer months with many of them ripening in fall. Beans, grain corn, winter squash, sweet potatoes. These are storable calories you can pack away for the cold months of winter.
Fall crops have to produce fast before it gets too cold unless you live in the South or you use this clever device. Even then, many species are not cold-hardy enough to consistently feed you every winter. Carrots and cabbage might do fine one year and be turned into frosty mush the next.
The predominant characteristic to seek in a survival crop for a TEOTWAWKI scenario is calories. The second attribute to seek is nutrition. Both are very important but it takes longer to have problems with nutrient deficiencies in your diet than it does to become very hungry. Planting kale is a very good idea but living on kale would be tough.
Cassava is a good survival crop for warm climates because it’s quite calorie dense. However, if you consume just cassava roots you’ll be dealing with nutrition issues after a while, making greens, berries, meat and other food sources important.
Potatoes are calorie-dense and more nutritious, but a gardener should still throw in beets, carrots, broccoli, etc., to round out his diet.
You get the idea. Throwing all your eggs in one basket isn’t a good idea, especially when gardening for survival. It’s not good for your health or your survival prospects. Just ask the Irish.
Let’s assume this fall garden you are planting is your first garden of the year or that you were not able to plant all you wanted to plant in the spring. Perhaps rats ate your corn (like they did with a lot of my corn this year) or you lost your prize Hubbard squash to blight.
What three high calorie crops would you plant in a fall survival garden to get you through a long winter?
Here are my suggestions.
High Calorie Survival Crop #1: Turnips
Though turnips will keep you alive, if you eat too many of them you’ll wish for death. Not because they’ll upset your stomach or anything; just because they’re painfully boring. I plant them anyway, because they are a bank of calories in the ground you can trust to grow in a crises…
Sometimes I really have a hard time getting done all I wish to accomplish.
Have you been there? You know those days… and weeks… and months… when you’re throwing yourself against a cliff of projects and nothing seems to get you over the top?
Distractions are a big part of the problem, as are not having good systems in place.
I have realized lately that I spend too much time answering questions on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and this blog… and not enough time getting done the writing that just barely pays for my little piece of the planet.
Another problem I’ve had is that I no longer have a quiet place to get away and get things done. I love having children’s voices in the house but our new house has no solid walls or quiet corners at all. It doesn’t even have glass in the windows, so when the children are watching Thomas the Train or playing a particularly violent session of “Romans vs. Christians” outside my office… well… it’s hard to write.
This week I think I’ve found a solution.
I took that picture on Tuesday afternoon at a little beach bar with WiFi that’s only a few miles down the road from our cocoa farm. This week we finally got a vehicle so I can go where I please. After four months of being without wheels, it’s a huge improvement!
At the beach bar it’s quiet in the afternoon except for the rolling surf and the far-off sound of native children playing in the gentle waves. I can get a cup of coffee and a sandwich and write to my heart’s content with no distractions except for pretty waitresses asking if I want more coffee. Or a cocktail.
This quick booklet covers how to grow your own coffee, tea and yaupon holly. It’s all you need to produce your own source of caffeine through the apocalypse (provided you can keep the more tropical sources alive in winter!).
The appendix also includes a transcript of my interview with Kona coffee farmer Gary Strawn, so you get a deeper glimpse into the difficulty of growing and processing coffee outside its proper climate.
You can do it – it just isn’t as easy as one would like.
If you’ve ever wondered about growin tea or coffee… or if there were any native North American sources of caffeine, this booklet is for you. I have a brand new full-sized book for Florida gardeners (hint: zone-pushing!) coming soon but hopefully this will hold you off for a bit as I get it finished, edited and published.
We sold our property in Florida and missed the spring of 2016
Bringing seeds into our new country legally is difficult
I could have snuck some seeds in with me (as one native told me, roughly, “no one expects you’ll follow those rules! You got to stick them in your clothes, in your pockets!”) but I couldn’t in good conscience sign a piece of paper on the plane stating I wasn’t bringing in plant material while bringing in plant material.
I’m hoping to get a special permit to bring in my Seminole pumpkin seed lines but thus far have been denied because the seeds are not “professionally cleaned” and packaged. Since they’re my own line of seeds, saved right from the guts of pumpkins and spread out to dry on a kitchen countertop, they definitely aren’t professionally cleaned. I’m not sure why this is important but I assume it has to do with the potential for viruses to some into the country, which would be terrible for local farmers. I’m okay with it – eventually they may let me bring some in if I meet the right people and/or figure out a way around the issue of cleaning.
For now, I’m gathering varieties of local pumpkin from the markets as I spot them.
Pumpkins like the one I just posted on my Instagram account yesterday:
Will the universe conspire against me to make everything I do fall into weeping and ashes?
Now I have no idea if I can get an apricot to grow in the tropics but, by golly, I’m going to give it a go. I know it will be fine for the first half-year until it needs a winter dormancy. Maybe I can build a big outdoor fridge! Sprouting apricot pits is just the start… now I actually need to grow the trees.
That said, if my seedling peaches are any indicator, we’re going to do fine with the tree part:
Apricots are one of my favorite dried fruit. I wish I’d tried this with apricot pits back in Florida or Tennessee where I’d have a better chance of getting fruit, but we’ll try tricking them into fruiting here by leaf-stripping during the dry season. It could happen, and if not: well, we pulled off a good demonstration on how to germinate apricots, at least! The other pits haven’t germinated yet but they can take a few months. I’ll bet we get a few more soon.
I recently had the chance to interview four desert survival experts for an article over at The Prepper Project. Though it’s not gardening, it was a fascinating piece to create and I learned a lot in the process. Read on – I think you’ll find it interesting.
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FACEOFF: What’s the Most Important Desert Survival Skill?
Picture yourself alone beneath the blazing sun. You can feel the beginning of a sunburn and it’s only 11AM. Cursing yourself for forgetting a hat, you take another swig from the single bottle of warm water you grabbed from your car, cringing at the oily plastic taste. It’s already 3/4 empty. You start to wonder if leaving the car was a good idea. Maybe someone would’ve spotted it? Yet the road is in the middle of nowhere. What a place for radiator failure. The horizon ripples with heat as you try to remember the last town you passed in your air-conditioned vehicle, radio cranked up, looking for that out-of-the way cell tower you were supposed to service. The road ahead stretches on forever. No shelter and no hope in sight. In another hour your water will be gone… and the worst of the day’s heat is still to come…
If you were stuck in the desert… how far could you go? What skills would you need?
The world isn’t as stable as it once was. And the world has never been very stable in general.
There are earthquakes, wars, plagues and riots, and the ever looming possibility of a TEOTWAWKI event.
There are even simple things like mechanical failure on a lonely strip of highway or a wrong turn on a hike.
Get stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time and you may end up dead. Yet the desert can be conquered – or at least survived – if you have the skill. Many tribes have done so throughout the centuries.
Desert survival requires serious knowledge and experience… and the experts we gathered to answer our questions abound in both. Men with their own unique skills, backgrounds and abilities.
Four desert survival skill experts: Max Cooper, Bob Hansler, Tom McElroy and AZ Prepper.
We asked them all the same question: What do you think is the #1 skill people will be sorry they didn’t practice before they end up being in a desert survival situation where their life depends on it?
Read and learn as one day the stumbling man in the desert… may be you…
Longtime reader Rachel told me about an opportunity to learn earthbag construction from an expert. Her family is building an earthbag house in Gainesville and YOU are invited to learn right along with them. I asked Rachel if she could send some pictures and a write-up so I could post details here. She shared the following. This is a great opportunity to learn, work and meet cool people while helping a family build their home and expand the building possibilities allowed by Alachua county. Don’t miss it! -DTG
Earthbag Construction Workshop in Gainesville – You are Invited!
My family is embarking on the adventure of building our dream home, just north of Gainesville, Florida.
After years of research and planning, we decided to build using earthbag construction, and despite the extra hurdles it will place in our way, to have the home be fully permitted and up to code.
In our area, that is no minor thing.
We’ve gotten the plans engineered to Florida standards, and after some back-and-forth, gotten the plans approved by the county.
Our county has never permitted an earthbag project, and is eager to see the result, and we want to show them that not only can it create a beautiful home, but that it is structurally sound, environmentally friendly, and natural disaster resistant.
We chose these plans, designed by Owen Geiger:
Here’s the thing though… we’ve never built with earthbags. We’re eager to learn though, and have found an ‘earthbag expert’ that is willing to come and teach us.
Do you want to enjoy jackfruit but can’t open a jackfruit without making a huge mess? Then this guide is for you.
Rachel demonstrates how to open a jackfruit in this video, and we’re going to break it all down step by step afterwards so you no longer need to worry about opening a jackfruit.
Ready? Let’s start…
Open a Jackfruit Easily
Jackfruit tastes amazing. A tropical explosion of flavor. The “problem” with jackfruit is that it isn’t the easiest fruit to open and prepare for the table. The skin and core are filled with amazingly sticky latex sap that really doesn’t want to let go of your skin, a cutting board, or your knife. Also, the entirety of the jackfruit isn’t edible: only the crisp yet chewy yellow arils around the seeds can be eaten.
Once you learn to open a jackfruit the easy way, you’ll shrug off these little complaints as no big deal. They are so delicious that the bit of extra work they take to open them is inconsequential. It’s like complaining that you have to walk a half-mile to get to the beach. Stop complaining, silly – just walk! It’s worth it. And really… it is easy once you get the hang of it.
Now here’s a visual step-by-step guide to opening a jackfruit.
Step 1: Secure a Jackfruit
First, buy a jackfruit that has a good aroma but isn’t too soft or blackened. If you’re lucky enough to have a jackfruit tree in your backyard, just go pick one like I did:
That one was overripe but still had some good parts in it. For the demonstration, we used a better fruit I picked from the other side of the tree.
Step 2: Oil Your Knife
You can also oil the cutting board if you like. Jackfruit sap will stick to everything.
Rachel puts oil on a paper towel then wipes it on her knife.
Step 3: Cut the Jackfruit in Half
Once you ave oiled your knife, cut your jackfruit in half.
Once you have your quarter, look for rotten or soft spots and cut them out.
Our jackfruit had an end that had started to rot. This doesn’t effect the rest of the fruit, which in this case was perfectly ripe. Cut it out and chuck it in the compost!
Step 6: Remove the Jackfruit Core from the Quarters
The core of a jackfruit is inedible and is good only for the compost pile. Cut it out. This will free up the edible portions.
Step 7: “Crack” the Jackfruit Apart
Bend back the rind of the jackfruit, spreading apart the internal threads and arils.
After doing this, Rachel went back and trimmed out a little more of the core portion which was still holding the edible arils.
Step 8: Pull Out the Delicious Jackfruit Arils and De-seed
Firmly grasp and twist out the arils, or cut their bases away from the rind if you find that easier to do.
The jackfruit seeds inside each aril look like a big bean. They can be boiled and eaten like chestnuts, if you are so inclined. Once you take them out, you have finished jackfruit bites all ready for the table.
And that’s it! It’s not all that hard to open a jackfruit when you know what you’re doing.
To clean the sticky jackfruit sap off your hands, rub them in dry rice – then you can later safely cook and eat the rice. No waste! I have also been informed by an Asian reader that gasoline on a rag will quickly de-stick your hands. Just don’t smoke and wash your hands in gas at the same time.
Jackfruit is a delicious and easy-to-grow fruit that doesn’t deserve its “pain in the neck” reputation. You can open them without a huge mess – give it a try and start enjoying the world’s largest fruit!