Vanishing seeds

As a gardener, you experience all types of failures. What just happened to me with the cucumber, summer squash and Charentais melon seeds qualifies for the funny category although it is also rather annoying, because I started the seeds late already due to cold weather, and now I have to buy seedlings in order to get an early summer crop.

After the seeds showed no sign of germination after more than a week, I put the tray with the jiffy pots in the oven with the light turned on, and a heating pad underneath to speed things up. A big red sign said, “Do not use oven and leave light on”. The oven smelled like a greenhouse but except for a couple of lonely melon seedlings, no results.

So this morning I decided to start all over again, emptying out all the pots and sifting through the soil. I found several melon seeds that had not germinated, I suspect due to lack of heat. But I could not believe my eyes when the rest of the pots contained no seeds whatsoever! Then it dawned on me – one sunny day last week, I had put the tray outside on the patio table, and the birds must have eaten them.

A small consolation: there is still one jar of Golden Zucchini Chutney in the pantry. I made it for the first time last year instead of the Zucchini Relish I usually make. The recipe is adapted from Preserving by Oded Schwartz. We eat the chutney with any type of Indian food.

Golden Zucchini Chutney

3½ pounds golden zucchini

3½ tablespoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon corn oil

3 tablespoons black mustard seeds

1½ tablespoons freshly ground coriander

1 dried medium-hot red chili

1½ tablespoons turmeric

4 large onions, halved I thinly sliced

7 large carrots, peeled and grated

8 ounces candied ginger, finely chopped

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

5 cups apple vinegar

1¾ cups sugar

You also need:

A canning pot, or a very large stockpot

6 1-pint canning jars

6 bands

6 new (unused) lids

1. Cut the squash (do not peel if using organic) in half lengthwise and scrape out any seeds. Cut into ½-inch cubes.

2. Place the squash in a colander and sprinkle with half of the salt. Let stand for one hour. Rinse under cold water and drain well.

4. Heat the oil in a large non-corrosive pot. Add the mustard seeds, coriander and chili and fry until the mustard seeds pop and the spices release their flavors. Add the turmeric and stir.

5. Add the squash with all of the remaining ingredients except the sugar and the remaining salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.

6. Add the sugar and salt and simmer for 1 to 1¼ hours, until most of the liquid has disappeared and the chutney as a thick consistency. Remove the chili.

7. Fill into sterilized canning jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Let sit for 2 months before opening.

Makes 6 1-pint jars

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