Spooky things happen on a farm

Kathy Henderson

Garden Columnist

Sometimes I just have to shake my head in confusion and wonderment. Life on the farm is not always what you think it is going to be. The idyllic quiet country life is often a myth.

A snake gourd in Kathy’s garden. Special photo

A phenomenal, almost supernatural fruit secretly grew in our pear tree this year. In past years we have been given a Snake Gourd (Trichosanthes cucumerina) by a gentleman and his wife from India. It was a long, green, creepy, cucumber-like immature gourd that was edible. I would cut it up and stir fry it with rice. It has a crispy texture and flavor similar to squash. This year he gave me the seed and I grew a vine; most of the seed did not germinate. I blamed this lack of plants on the squirrels getting the seed, but a little research may have proven this wrong.

The blossom of the vine is a lacy white flower which finally produced a fruit that I recognized. Then Keith who works on the farm came into the greenhouse all excited and led me to the pear tree to see what was growing there. Wow! This was hidden from me as I picked the pears earlier in the season. Two very large, long versions of my little snake gourd was turning more orange every day.

Research tells me that seeds of the snake gourd were sent to Europe from China in 1720. While it has been known to the European and American community, it was never really a part of the garden. Warm nights are needed to develop the fruit and we certainly have those. With an increasing Asian population in our part of the country we have become more familiar with their foods and herbs.

Gourds are easy to grow and this one is no exception. You must have a good strong fence or trellis because this can be a very prolific producer of 3-5’ fruits at maturity. However, these are edible when only 16 - 18” long. Some cultivars are even shorter. The mature fruit is squishy and not edible, but very interesting to observe. I grew these on a 10-foot wildlife fence along with Luffa, Dipper, and Birdhouse gourds. This was a great structure for gourds. The seed have a only a 60% germination rate. The soil was a mixture of compost and soil. I did provide supplemental water during this drought-ridden summer.

While the mature gourd is inedible, the red jelly-like substance around the seeds is eaten like a tomato sauce in Asian dishes or used in Ayurvedic (Hindu) medicines. It is amazing what you learn from the Internet. Now you know!

Another unusual happening in my garden, but not quite as scary, is the flowering of my ‘Cameo’ quince shrub with its soft coral blossoms. This shrub is supposed to signal the end of Winter and the onset of Spring. It is really blooming right now in October! What? Is it giving us a clue of what is ahead in our weather? Maybe it is just a Halloween thing - spooky!

A friend came by and said his Rhode Island Red hen was growing spurs and laying eggs. Or maybe his Rhode Island Red Rooster was laying eggs? Who Knows? I know that if you do not have a rooster, a hen will often become a dominant figure and even start crowing. However, this friend said he had a rooster. Maybe this egg-laying hen will develop full-size spurs, but I doubt it; some hens just have spur “buds.” Stay tuned for the “rest of the story.”

The farm and garden is a wonderful place, full of changes and excitement. If you are not gardening - Start. If you do not have time, come and visit mine. And remember October is full of scary things - the scariest one being our drought.

Follow Kathy on Facebook at Kathy’s Plants.