The best thing about having a compost heap is not the smug satisfaction of reducing your household waste to a mere 10 gallons a month, or seeing healthy organisms thrive in your soil, or the idea that the nutrient cycle may be so poetically expressed in your very own back yard; no, it’s none of those. The best thing about composting is free food volunteering from old scraps and seeds left behind from dinners past. After the worms, squirrels and birds have a go, a few stragglers always manage to make it, and in the fluffy, nutrient-rich nursery of the compost heap, nitrogen hogs like tomatoes and cucurbits spring forth.
This kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin) is just one straggler. It was one of Zephyr’s first solid foods, simmered in warm dashi and sake. The seeds were cast out into the pile, fodder for boisterous soldier fly larvae and lithe red worms, and after they were scraped clean by tiny radula, they germinated and grew, grew, grew; up my arborvitae, across my lawn, over the abandoned grill rusting under the bushes. I got two sturdy kabocha off that vine, a blue Hubbard off another, a dusky Fairy Tale pumpkin off a third.
Unwilling to risk turning my kabocha to a punky parody of a pumpkin, I picked it moderately small. I cut it open fresh, scooped out the filamentous flesh and seeds, peeled the rough, waxy exoderm and cubed it. Into the pressure cooker with a few cups of chicken broth, a can of coconut milk, a few fat spoonfuls of red curry paste, an inch of ginger (grated) and a half an onion (chopped). Ten minutes later, I ran an immersion blender through the pot and after it was all smooth, I added salt and pepper and a little turmeric. Toasted pumpkin seeds, a drizzle of walnut oil and a few slices of grainy bread were all it needed for a satisfying dinner.
The seeds from this kabocha went back into my wild, disheveled compost heap. The nutrient cycle is complete; the loop is closed.