It isn’t often that a vegetable headed for the roasting oven offers to its future consumer a loud-and-clear lesson in ethics. And it also isn’t often that I meditate upon the rules of the Honorable Harvest during the spring planting season. But here it is:
Yet another beautiful Cucurbita maxima v. Sweet Meat Squash. And this one is only the fifth of seven that we harvested off of a single 4′-0″ x 7′-0″ raised bed, last September:
The plants produce like crazy. They produce despite our incredibly chilly, foggy, coast-range “summers.” They succumb to powdery mildew at the end of each season, and they simply do not care. Our squash harvest last year – grown from six planted seeds – topped 65 pounds! They keep really well, for a very long time, even on a bookshelf, stored at room temperature: It is now April, and this harvest is still providing solid, well-preserved food for my family.
These beautiful, aqua-blue “pumpkins” are incredibly sweet and richly flavorful. They make superb pies, Afghani braised pumpkin, soups, stews, you name it. Did I mention the pie? The skins are thin and easy to peel. The squash is easy to cut and chop for cooking. The meat is typically at least three inches thick, and the seed cavity, though tiny is simply packed with big, fat, juicy seeds – delightful roasted, with a bit of oil and salt.
Until today, that is.
As I was scooping out the seeds, thinking about enjoying a toasted treat while the sweet meat braised in the oven, I was certain I heard the Squash Spirit speak:
You dropped six seeds on the ground; I grew and grew, magnificent climbing vines, bearing fruit all summer long. You offered a bit of water and compost; I fed your entire family for eight months. And now, you are going to eat all of my seeds, as well? How will I ever have children of my own?
Three of the rules of the Honorable Harvest (from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s wonderful book, Braiding Sweetgrass) are:
Never take more than half; leave some for others.
Give thanks for what you have been given.
Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.
I guess it is really well past time for me to begin thanking the squash plants for all their bounty, and doing a bit of habitual seed-saving. Starting with this squash, and with all others going forward, I plan to pick out the fattest, most beautiful 50% of the seeds (or more), and save them for re-planting, next year. I will share those seeds with neighbors, of both human and non-human kind – to help disperse the mother squash’s seeds, and to provide them more space and resources to grow, and reproduce again.
I can always roast the less-viable seeds.
And you really cannot go wrong with “just” pie.