I'm not the gardener in our house. It is my husband who pores over plant catalogues, hijacks the kitchen table with his seed trays and compost, who tenderly pricks out, pots on and hardens off. He can prune a fruit tree with scientific exactitude and has an enviable success rate with cuttings. I limit my gardening activities to a little gentle weeding, some desultory dead-heading and much lazy reading in the hammock.
My husband has a perennial problem, however. We spend every August by the sea, a hundred miles away from his beloved garden and each year he agonises over just when to plant out the tomatoes, the sweetcorn, the courgettes and cucumbers so that they come into harvest at the beginning of September rather than the beginning of August.
Every year, when we return from the coast, he barely takes the time to put down the bags before he marches the whole family out on a tour of the garden so we can rejoice in his successes and sympathise with his failures.
It rarely works of course. Vegetables seem to be hardwired to fruit in August or else to produce small and wizened offerings destined never to ripen in the weak September sun.
This year was no different. In place of tender courgettes, three great marrows hulked under huge leaves, their hides like camouflage patterned Kevlar; the tomatoes bore many tiny yellow stars, but only a handful of hard green asteroids within a black hole in the centre of the plants. The sweetcorn had grown high and promising but the cobs themselves were sadly undersized. And the slugs had eaten the cucumbers.
But something else had grown. Where our homemade compost had been dug in to prepare a bed for a planned "architectural planting" (a bush), a couple of pumpkin plants had erupted with vigour, rampaging across the lawn and cascading voluptuous leaves and saffron flowers over the gravel drive. Within the leaves, several fat and swelling fruits lolled bumptiously at their ease.
We have no idea what kind of pumpkin or squash these are. We didn't plant them; they came by themselves, but we are enjoying them hugely and look forward to harvesting them come October.
My husband won't give up on the other veg, of course. The tomatoes and sweetcorn obviously need to go out earlier, courgettes later and the cucumbers defended from slugs. While he hasn't said as much, it must be galling for him to realise that his best harvest will be entirely unintentional. But then, a lot of life is like that; and it's best to just enjoy these serendipitous successes.
In the meantime, has anyone got any recipes for marrow?
A Moodscope member.