It only took a short while for the pumpkin seeds, planted late last year, to grow into delicious plump, pumpkins. For months the garden team kept a watchful eye on the pumpkin patch, enriching the soil with organic feed, protecting them from fruit flies, sneaky squirrels and fungus. And at night our nocturnal friend, the barn owl, kept the opportunistic mice at bay.
The vigilance of our gardeners paid off, and as the rambling stems of the pumpkins dry at summer’s end, we are now cutting and harvesting the ripe pumpkins. This year however, it was the children who came to play even before the chefs had a turn to trick pumpkins into Babel treats.
With a hop, skip and jump we went over the enormous Atlantic Giant pumpkin into The Snail, covered with climbing calabashes and gourds, for an exciting treasure hunt. As we walked through the belly of The Puff Adder, children of all ages learnt about the different varieties of pumpkins: Turks Turban, Flat White Boerpampoen, deep orange Cinderella, delicious Golden Hubbard Squash, Speckled Swan, best-to-eat Muscat and the Halloween. With the help of their parents, children cut, scooped, hammered and hugged their pumpkins into shape until sunset. Exhausted, hungry and proud we finished the evening with candle lights, pizza and pumpkin ice cream.
The bountiful late-summer produce from the farm includes a Babylonstoren favourite….prickly pears in all colours. Delicious, versatile and easy to grow from a single leaf (with good selection and tight control), the prickly pear promises to be back on the foodie scene.
Prickly pears have such a rich past in South Africa, that they are considered by many as “South African”, but in fact the prickly pear (or cactus pear) hails from Mexico and Central America, and was brought to our southern shores in the late 1700’s.
Apart from the prickly pears in our garden’s famed prickly pear maize, we have no less than 11 varieties of Opuntia ficus- indica growing on the farm, and they are in season now! This “cinderella” of the fruit community has countless uses; we’re also trying our hand at ink-making, using the deep purple-coloured fruits of Opuntia robusta from the garden.
Hannes, our farmer, invented this handy contraption to harvest the prickly pear. But the old-fashioned way of harvesting, with a tin attached to a stick, still proves to be the most effective for those hard-to-reach delicacies.
Tip: Get rid of most of the spines, by rubbing the skin of the prickly pear with newspaper, alternatively use protective gloves when working with this cheeky fruit.
Just some of the varieties that are fruiting now, and the chefs, farmers, and garden team are in agreement that the “Messina” and “Zastron” variety has the best flavour, whilst the “Meyers” variety has the most beautiful colour – a vibrant, hot pink!
How to peel a prickly pear:
- Stick the fork in the side of the prickly pear.
- Cut off each of the thorny ends and discard.
- Make one long vertical slice down the body of the prickly pear. You need to cut through the skin of the prickly pear and not into the flesh of the fruit.
- Peel the skin off the fruit using the knife and fork.
- Place the peeled fruit in the fridge and enjoy a few hours later, ice cold!
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22 April – Olive Workshop
Renowned olive expert, Linda Costa, joins our cellar team to for a tour through our olive plant, and will share her knowledge on growing olives, selecting olive oil and the endless uses of olives. Find more info here.
20 May – Distill Workshop
Come and light the fire under our copper kettle at the cellar and distil seasonal fruits from the farm.
10 June – Artisan Baking
Join us in the cozy farm kitchen with our artisan baker, Karen Pretorius, and learn more about the art of baking bread. Find more info here.
24 June – Biltong Making
Face the knives and the cold as Karen Pretorius shows you how to make your own biltong. Find more info here.
8 July – Mushroom Workshop
Love mushrooms…come and inoculate shiitake & oyster mushrooms to grow your own. Find more info here.
5 & 12 August – Pruning Workshop
With spring peeking Liesl van der Walt, curator of our garden, and master of secateurs, Anton Roux, will present a workshop on the pruning of trees and the espalier technique. Find more info here.
9 September – Clivia Workshop
Join clivia specialist, Heinie Heydenrych, and our garden team, and learn how to grow you own clivias. Find more info here.
19 September – Clivia Talk with Dr Hans Roos
Dr Hans Roos will share his passion for clivia, the beautiful indigenous lily that has enchanted him for more than 20 years. Get a better understanding of where, and how clivias grow naturally, and learn more about growing them in your own garden. (R150 pp) Find more info here.
7 October – The Secret Life of Bees
Get a closer look at what goes on inside a beehive with local bee expert, Mike Allsopp. Find more info here.
21 October – Herb Workshop
4 November – Teas & Tisanes
Spend the day with our head gardener, Gundula Deutschlander, gathering ingredients to concoct tantalising teas and tisanes. Also learn about the drying and preserving processes of tea. Find more info here.
11 November – Growing Summer Salads
Organice producer, Tia Cusden, joins us all the way from England to share her wealth of knowledge about growing salad leaves. We also get practical, planting a box with summer salads for easy harvesting at home. Find more info here.
Workshops are from 10h00 – 16h00
Cost 450 per person (Includes lunch at the Greenhouse Restaurant)
For bookings & enquiries email email@example.com or phone 084 275 1243
For a secret crush, for a declared significant other: let the Babylonstoren shop help you delight. You can get these by visiting us on the farm.
Middle pic: romantic silk throw with Delft blue design, available by the meter.
Above: ideas for that special meal – Babel cookbook by Maranda Engelbrecht. And a ridiculously giggly tipple: as a special Valentine treat, our winemaker created an Elderflower sparkle. (The little red heart you see is cut from beetroot, also adding colour.)