Food and drink: A lime-green squash and a teenaged duck 

A tale of two dinners: Part II

The Muscovy duck is now a rambunctious teenager, much like any other teenager, growing like gangbusters, hanging out with his teenaged brothers and sisters, constantly eating and horsing around.

The Queensland Blue, on the other hand, is a gentler, quieter thing. Right now it's a bright lime-green and about the size of a half loaf of bread, working its way through set-backs toward fulfilling its destiny as a big, flattened squash, slate blue in colour with a rich orange flesh.

What follows is part of a series started mid-May to track these two local foods from field to table.

The squash is being raised by Sarah McMillan at Rootdown Organics and the duckling by Jennie Helmer on Helmers' Organic Farm, both representative of the conscientious farmers in the Pemberton area dedicated to raising wholesome food, and both our local "field" correspondents, sharing their respective tales from hatchling and seedling to dinner plate, come what may.


Teen age never changes

When we first we met our Muscovy duck in May, he was a small puffball of yellow and grey-brown fluff that had hatched only a few days earlier.

In about three and a half months he - and he is simply a "he" as the Helmers never name their animals destined to be eaten, although they are raised with lots of love - has grown as big as his mother, Hannah. He's very white, like her, with some grey on his back, and comes up to about mid-calf.

"They (boy-duck and his six siblings) have exploded in the last month," says Jennie. "They've tripled in size from mid-July to now, so you'd have no way to distinguish him from his mother other than the way they act. We call them teenagers at this stage."

And teenagers they are - constantly playing and bugging each other, enjoying the life of Riley, as Jennie puts it. "They spend their whole day together. Wherever one goes, they all follow right away. It's very cute."

One reason farmers used to keep Muscovy ducks, which are a rare breed now, given the different requirements of industrialized commercial farming, is that they're so prolific. But the cold spring this year put a damper on Hannah's first "litter", ergo only seven ducklings in boy-duck's set. However, she followed that with a set of 17, so the teenagers and their younger siblings sometimes hang out together in a giant familial jumble of 24 ducklings, large and small.

Cool weather in June held back their growth and didn't give July a very good set up, as it did with everything else on the farm. Then the August heat hit, not record-setting, but close - "and everything just went."


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