Sunday, 23 April 2017

Growing Pumpkin Kaempw Melon Rilon

I was given seeds of an heirloom vegetable that had a hand written description of "C pepo Kaempw Melon Rilon".  I don't know how to pronounce it.  The a and e were joined together, and it looked like there was a dot or two above them, I don't know if that changes how it is pronounced.

From the word 'Melon' I assumed it was a pumpkin of some kind rather than a zucchini or a squash, as there are several different C pepo pumpkins, but other than that I did not know what to expect.  Once the leaves started to grow, and the flowers appeared, I had a look and am almost certain that it is C maxima.
Pumpkin "Kaempw Melon Rilon"

These were large sized pumpkin seeds, they took 10 days to germinate and the cotyledons were huge!  The plants then started to grow true leaves and the plants began to turn into regular looking pumpkin vines.

Then something happened.  At each node where the plants were growing a leaf they started to sprout roots.  I have grown many different varieties of pumpkin over the years, but for some reason I have never looked closely at a pumpkin plant before.  I normally put them in, water them while thinking of other things, and then frost kills the plant and I harvest the fruit to store somewhere until we are ready to eat it.

As I normally do not look too closely at the pumpkin vines I do not know how common this trait is.  After looking on the internet it appears that it is more common in C maxima than in the other cucurbit species.  It is a very useful trait to have.
Pumpkin growing roots at each node
Pumpkin roots growing at each node
Pumpkin rooting at each node
This trait of the pumpkin plant rooting at each node is fantastic.  It means that each plant is far stronger, more resilient and potentially more productive than it otherwise would have been.

Pumpkin leaves normally wilt away to nothing on hot days, only to return after watered in the evening.  Rooting at each node meant that it stands up the the heat slightly better than it other wise would.  They still can not be used as an effective ground cover as when it gets hot they still wilt to nothing, but the leaves are big for another hour each morning which slightly reduces the amount of moisture lost through evaporation.

Growing roots at each node also means that I can easily take a rooted cutting and plant it somewhere else in the garden to expand my crop.

Each vine produced several rounds of pumpkins.  The first round of pumpkins weighed about 8 kg each, if they weren't picked the second round weighted about 5 kg each, and the third and subsequent rounds weighed about 3 kg each.  Normally I don't pick pumpkins until after frost has killed off the vines, but if I picked the pumpkins when they looked about ripe each subsequent round of fruit was much closer in weight to the first round.  As this variety kept producing more lots of pumpkins I pick them when they look ripe instead of waiting until frost kills the vine.
Kaempw Melon Rilon

Kaempw Melon Rilon pumpkins are great to eat!
Normally the skin on larger fruiting pumpkins can be thick and difficult to cut through.  The skin on these pumpkins is remarkably thin, making it very simple to cut up and also probably limiting its storage ability.  I haven't tried to store them yet as we eat them pretty fast.

These Kaempw Melon Rilon pumpkins also taste pretty amazing.  The flesh is orange and sweet, this is either my favourite or second favourite tasting pumpkin variety.  Considering how many varieties of pumpkin I have tasted over the years this is a rather impressive claim.

The flesh seems to fall apart easily if cooked in the right way, making these pumpkins simple to turn into pumpkin soup or pumpkin scones or pumpkin slice (which is absolutely delicious) or many meals where we want to include pumpkin but not have the kids notice large pieces of pumpkin.  This pumpkin also roasts rather well making delicious roast pumpkin.

We tried to make pumpkin lasagne using them instead of pasta, and they did not work all that well for this as they were a bit soft.  We also tried to make pumpkin chips, again this is not the greatest variety for that purpose, again they were a bit soft and fell apart a bit too much.

At first when I saw the size of the large pumpkins I decided not to grow this variety again.  I figured we could not get through pumpkins that large and would end up wasting some of it.  After tasting them I wanted to find a way to make it work, but still thought we probably would not get through them as not only are the pumpkins large, but each vine produced multiple fruits.  I also recorded the pumpkin days to maturity, considering how large the pumpkins are they ripen remarkably fast.

So far we have not wasted any pumpkin at all, in fact I wish we had more of them.  We only have three left as we have been eating them so fast.  Now that we have used them in several different types of meals, and seen how productive, tasty, and versatile they are I am pretty sure that I will grow them again.

Kaempw Melon Rilon pumpkin seeds for sale in Australia
I don't know if anyone else in Australia has Kaempw Melon Rilon pumpkins, but I wish they did.  If anything happens to my stock I have no way of getting them back again.  More seed savers are needed for this amazing heirloom pumpkin.

Even though I don't know how to pronounce it, and can't spell it without looking it up, I am also taking care not to change the name.  It was called Kaempw Melon Rilon when I got it and it will keep its name.  If someone can translate this to English for me I may consider using its English name.  Until then, it has a fun and unpronounceable swedish name.

I have taken great care to save pure seed from these pumpkins and will offer it on my for sale page along with the other heirloom vegetable seeds and perennial vegetables that I have for sale.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

What is the gas inside a capsicum comprised of

Have you ever wondered what the gas inside a capsicum is comprised of?  Or the composition of the gas inside a pumpkin?  Or the composition of the gas inside any hollow fruits?  I have.  

When I was a child every time we would cut open a capsicum or pumpkin I would try to breathe in the gas.  I thought (because school teachers with a limited understanding of biology told me that "plants breathe out oxygen") that it would be almost pure oxygen.  I always wished I had some way to work out the composition of the gas inside a capsicum or pumpkin and be able to know for sure.

When I was in high school I thought if the gas was largely oxygen then I should be able to use the glowing splint test to prove it.  I tried several times, but never had any luck.  I was not sure if this was because the gas was not largely oxygen, or if the gasses mixed with the atmospheric air too much after cutting the fruit open rendering the test useless.  I always wanted to cut open a capsicum under water and capture the gas in an upturned test tube to try the glowing splint test, but I never did.

Now that I am older I still have no way of accurately measuring the components of the gas inside hollow fruits.  I could try to the glowing splint test, but the internet now exists which means that I have access to all kinds of information.  It is like having the world's greatest library.

So I did some research and found the answer.  There were a few forums and things where people made up the answer but mostly got it wrong, I even found a few books of 'facts' where they made up the answer and got it wrong.  None of this impressed me because I wanted to find someone who had measured the composition of the gas inside hollow fruit, not just guess the answer.

I eventually found a few places that actually measured the composition of the gasses inside hollow fruits.  It was strangely difficult to find the answer, so I thought I would share it here.
Hollow tomato fruit
Hollow pumpkin fruit

The gas inside a capsicum and pumpkin
The average concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
20.95% O2    0.4% CO2

The average concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide inside a capsicum
19% O2    3% CO2 
Oxygen ranged from 18% to 20% and Carbon Dioxide ranged from 0.5% to 3% depending on the stage of growth that the gas was measured.

The average concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide inside pumpkins
Oxygen ranged from 4% to 16%   Carbon Dioxide ranged from 6% to 8% depending on the stage of growth that the gas was measured.

The results
The gas inside a capsicum or a pumpkin is not high in oxygen or low in carbon dioxide.   Who would have thought!

The oxygen content of the gas inside hollow fruits varies a bit but is always lower than in the surrounding air.  There are some theories that this is due to the seeds requiring oxygen for growth or to reduce the amount of internal fruit spoilage due to oxidation.  It appears that we don't know why it happens at this stage.

The carbon dioxide content of the gas inside hollow fruits varies, but it is significantly higher than in the surrounding air.  There appear to be a few theories about this, again it appears that we do not know for certain.

Further reading

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Days to Maturity Attila Strawberry

People often go on about how long it takes for alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca) to germinate, and how long it takes to get strawberries from seed, so I decided to record how long it took for me this year. 

Obviously these times could be shorter or longer if conditions were changed, but it is what happened for me this year.

Being in Australia the dates are written in the format of Day/Month/Year.

Days to maturity Attila Strawberry (Fragaria vesca)

Seeds planted             08/10/2016                  Day 0
Germinated                 21/10/2016                  Day 13
First Runners              21/12/2016                  Day 73 (more runners every few days, like a spider web)
Flowered                   03/03/2017                   Day 145 (5 months)
First fruit ripe              09/04/2017                  Day 182

Attila is one of the very few alpine strawberries that grows runners.  They have been named after Attila the Hun due to their propensity to take new ground.  In my opinion they are an excellent edible ground cover that should be part of every permaculture garden.

The seeds were very easy to germinate, the plants were simple to grow, and the strawberries are delicious.
Attila Strawberry Days to Maturity
Attila Strawberry, notice the first tiny runners
Days to maturity Atilla strawberry
Attila Strawberry runner grown plant top right of the picture

For a full list of vegetable days to maturity please click here.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Yellow Wonder Strawberry Days to Maturity

I grew several different alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca) from seed this season.  I looked on ebay for seeds, but the vast majority of strawberry seeds on ebay do not exist, so I had to get seeds from other places.

Being in Australia the dates are written in the format of Day/Month/Year.

Days to maturity Yellow Wonder strawberry (Fragaria vesca)

Planted                       08/10/2016                  Day 0
Germinated                 22/10/2016                  Day 14
Flowered                   17/02/2017                   Day 129
First fruit ripe              28/03/2017                  Day168

For a full list of vegetable days to maturity please click here.
Yellow Wonder starting to flower

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Micro Tom Tomato Days to Maturity

Micro Tom are the smallest tomato variety ever bred.  I like Micro Tom tomatoes, while they are not hugely delicious or massively productive, they are tiny little plants that are very cute.  I have read on seed company websites many different days to maturity ranging from 50 days to 120 days and everything in between.
Micro Tom starting to ripen
I keep records of when I grow things, especially rare or difficult to find things.  To make it easier to find in the future I am recording some of them in this blog this year.

The following are the Micro Tom tomato days to maturity in my garden this year.  Being in Australia the  dates is written in the format of Day/Month/Year.

Seeds planted       02/10/2016       Day 0
Germinated           11/10/2016       Day 9
Flowered              22/12/2016       Day 81
Harvest start         07/01/2017       Day 97

The previous time I recorded Micro Tom tomato days to maturity it took 113 days from planting the seed until picking the first ripe fruit.  They were very old seeds so it is to be expected that the plants would be weaker and slower than normal.

My best guess is that 50 days is quoted by some seed companies is the amount of days to maturity from transplant, which is arbitrary and pointless unless you transplant at a standard set date.  I find it far more useful to know how long it takes to pick ripe fruit from planting the seed.

For a full list of vegetable days to maturity please click here.
Micro Tom Tomatoes
Micro Tom starting to flower