Food and Drink 

Nothing blue about the Queensland blue

In May I started a series with Sarah McMillan at Rootdown Organics and Jennie Helmer at Helmers' Organic Farm, both in Pemberton Valley, to track the tale of two dinners.

One dinner was a gorgeous white Muscovy duck that Jennie was raising amongst a gaggle of ducks and other farm animals that are lovingly cared for on the long-time family farm. The other, a sublime Queensland blue squash that Sarah grew up eating in Australia but had never seen growing. So she decided to try growing it on the new farm she and her partner, Gavin Wright, bought to support their expanding business.

These final chapters in the life of a squash and a duck have proven so rich that I'm giving over the entire column to a single dinner, this week the Queensland blue and next our Muscovy duck.

So far we've tracked the squash from seedling, through a couple of touch-and-go episodes, including a pale and wobbly start in the greenhouse when Sarah thought the seedlings wouldn't make it, and an attack of early blight.

Last time we checked in, it had grown into a bright lime-green fruit on the vine, about the size of half a loaf of bread.

So here's the tail end of the tale as we follow a squash dinner from seed to table top.



When Sarah McMillan finally cut open her Queensland blue squash to cook it, her first reaction was, oh noooo! It's not ripe enough!

Shaped something like a mini-UFO - a roundish trapezoid about the width of a salad plate on top - a Queensland blue is supposed to be a gorgeous and ghostly slate blue on the outside.

But a light early frost in the middle of a record rainy September made Sarah and Gavin decide to harvest their Queensland blues, along with all their other squashes, ahead of schedule. So all the "blues" were still quite green, like this one - now a rich, deep olive with just a hint of the distinctive blue.

"It's supposed to be have super deep orange flesh, but it was a bit pale and the flesh near the skin was a bit green. But I said, oh heck, I have to cook it anyway and it will be what it will be," Sarah says.

The results were pleasantly surprising - even though it was slightly under ripe the squash was deliciously sweet and tasty, quite complex with some floral undertones.

"It's always a bit of a balance - leave them on the vine as long as possible because they are going to ripen better, but then it's a race before something like powdery mildew sets in," she says.


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