Gross or awesome? You decide!

By Mir
August 16, 2013

Every now and then I do something where I catch myself and go, “… did I really just do that?” It’s usually because I can’t decide if I’m amazing or disgusting. (In my defense, there’s sometimes a really thin line between these states. Also, I’m not very bright.)

Before the Internet, I had to just wonder in silence, or call a friend. But now I have all of YOU! Ready to tell me the TRUTH, and scold me if necessary. So naturally just now I did this thing and was all, “Oh yes, I must tell the world about it immediately so that I can find out how to properly judge my own actions.” Woooooo!

So the best part here is that I just reread this intro and I’m now envisioning readers being all, “What? WHAT DID YOU DO? Did you bring home roadkill? Are you snacking on ants? HOW CRINGEWORTHY ARE YOU RIGHT NOW??” This is sort of like that letter that’s been going around for years where the college girl writes to her parents to let them know that she’s hooked on drugs, living with a convicted felon, knocked up, and a bunch of other stuff. And then at the end she’s all, “Just kidding! But I did get a C in a class. No biggie, right?” This is going to be sort of like that. I hope.

Okay. Here’s our compost pile:

Basically it’s just a chicken-wire-bound square where we dump stuff, and the chicken-wire is because we have tons of deer and apparently we don’t want them eating it…? I’m not sure. Anyway, we have woods, the compost pile is back by the woods, and it’s not exactly rocket science. We throw plant food scraps and rotten produce and egg shells and coffee grounds out there, and sometimes leaves and grass clippings, and if we were really the upstanding hippies I wish we were, we’d go out there and turn it all over with a pitchfork on a regular basis to make it all happy and turn into nutritious soil faster. But the thing is, we’re lazy. Also, Mother Nature doesn’t pitchfork-turn the earth and yet decomposition still happens, and so our compost turns into soil all on its own, albeit kind of slowly. Finally, I like to blame our laziness and my “whatever, circle of life” philosophy on the chicken-wire, really, because getting in there to DO anything is kind of a pain in the butt.

About a month ago, Otto came inside from emptying the compost bucket and remarked, “Something is growing out in the compost.”

In my head, I responded, “OH MY GOD IS IT A DEMON BABY??” It seemed like that could be kind of interesting, you know? But in my out-loud voice I just asked him what he thought it was. He said he wasn’t sure.

I promptly forgot about it, no doubt because I saw something shiny that was more interesting than a random something growing in a pile of rotting stems and eggshells.

A couple of weeks ago I was emptying the compost and came back inside and said, “Hey, there’s something growing in the compost!” Otto looked at me like I was a lovable but mentally-impaired puppy. Then he gently reminded me that he’d already told me about that. “Well, yeah, I know,” I said, remembering that he had, “But I know what it is!”

I had a vague memory of visiting Kira one time, years ago, and during meal prep I’d chucked an avocado pit into her compost bucket. Poor Kira just about tripped over me in her rush to remove it and explain that she never, EVER puts anything that might actually GROW into her compost. I, of course, totally respect her life choices and wasted no time in razzing her about her concern for precious seeds and the fact that they might accidentally root, all while pointing out that we put seeds and pits in our compost ALL THE TIME and nothing EVER grows there.

Karma! It’s what’s for dinner. LITERALLY. [Not the new, stupid definition of literally. The old, actual-sense-making definition.]

So the compost, you see…

… it’s just that it’s been so long since we turned it, I guess…

… that it went and grew a butternut squash.

Butternut squash was not a thing I used to buy, at least it wasn’t until we went to Arizona and discovered that Uncle Bobby’s Bisotto is Chickadee’s favorite dish in the whole wide world, world without end, amen. Now I make this roasted squash risotto on a regular basis, which means I scrape and peel butternut squashes and toss the entrails in the compost, and have been doing so for a couple of years. This is the first time we somehow grew our own out there in the compost, though.

Well, we’re having risotto tonight. [Sidebar: I would happily eat risotto studded with cardboard and seasoned with stale Mrs. Dash. I have tried—and failed—many times to convince The Picky Vegetarian that risotto can be made with OTHER THINGS. She’s not buying it. Risotto must have roasted butternut squash and saffron, end of story. That’s fabulous, because the only seasoning more expensive than good saffron is… cocaine, probably.] When I went grocery shopping last weekend, forgetting nearly everything I actually needed, I DID remember to get a squash for it, but (you knew there was a “but”) it’s kind of small and ugly.

Listen, I was emptying the compost this morning and I thought, “Why not?” Readers, I picked the compost squash.

Monkey saw me taking the above picture and said, “Oh hey, did you finally decide to go get the squash out of the garbage?”

“The COMPOST,” I corrected him. “We do not eat garbage. But sometimes we eat compost. I guess.”

“Which one was from here? The one on the right?” I nodded. “That makes sense,” he mused, “because that one looks a lot happier, and it was growing in a nice bed of nutritious scraps. I bet it’ll taste better than the other one.”

That kid has a future in PR.

Judge away, Internet. We’re having compost risotto for dinner.


  1. SJ

    SCORE!!! Awesome. Unless you open it and it has a half-formed butternut squash in it that’s really just a beak and some blood. Uhhh. Wait, that’s not right.

    No, it’s just awesome.

  2. Kim

    Serendipidity makes for good eats.

  3. TC

    Compost is, um, soil, right? So this would be wrong how?

    You’re welcome.

  4. AmandaXC

    Compost is just another kind of garden, if you ask me. I’d certainly eat that – looks great! I think I have some pumpkins growing in mine, and I really hope I do, because I ran out of garden space this year and didn’t plant our usual sugar pumpkins, and what on earth would I do without those? (well…buy them…but I’d rather find free ones in the compost)

  5. meghann @ midgetinvasion

    My dad has corn growing in his compost pile. A giant stalk of corn. Lol. Unless you add actual compost to the risotto, it’s all good, yo.

  6. Sharon

    Awesome! And organic!

  7. abbeyviolet

    We’ve had a lot of things sprout, but I don’t think they’ve made it to maturity. We discovered our son had sprinkled cantaloupe seeds in the back yard when maybe 8 seedlings emerged (which were sadly cut off by the yard guy) We do have a melon type thing growing out of the actual compost spot. It has bloomed a few times, but so far, sadly no “fruit.” Hope yours is tasty!

  8. Beth

    I have no idea why serendipitous squash from the lovely compost would be any ickier than carefully planned squash grown in the very same compost after it had been lugged into the garden. Hmm…

    The thing with not putting anything seedy in the compost is so you don’t end up with weeds or volunteers in your garden. A volunteer in the compost bin is just God telling Chickie she deserves more risotto. :-)

    • MaryP

      I love this! It’s not gross, it’s God. A word from the Lord, no less.

  9. kakaty

    not gross at ALL. It’s growing from the best stuff ever – it’s likely very tasty!

  10. Wendy

    I agree with everybody above. However, I wish to lodge a bit of a complaint about putting a link to Uncle Bobby’s Bisotto which only turns out to be a lovely story, but NO RECIPE. Because I grow saffron ( and love Butternut squash and I’m pretty sure that my entire crop this year will be used for one batch of Uncle Bobby’s if I can get my hands on the recipe!

    • Mir

      I email the recipe upon request. Sending it to you now!

      • Sheryl

        I’d like the recipe too! Unless you’re sore about that egg shell comment.

      • Tenessa

        OOOO, I’d like the recipe, too, please.

      • Chris

        May I please get the recipe as well? Thanks!

        • Rita

          Me too please! I’m trying to get my Chickadee twin (Twice exceptional, gifted, with ADD and anxiety and almost 15) to expand her palate and my younger daughter is an opportunistic vegetarian. (She made a fantastic lentil curry today!)

    • Debra

      Wait! You GROW your own saffron??? I did not know that was even possible! I mean, I knew it was plant based but it seems so exotic.

      • Meri

        They’re the stamens from a specific type of crocus, you can order the bulbs from various places.

  11. Cathy

    It’s not the internet without someone disagreeing, so I’ll say EWWWW!! GROSS!!

    …except I actually think there is nothing wrong with this situation. Something grown in your compost pile is probably far less gross than what you can find in a grocery store, sadly.

    Also, if Kira finds a way to grow avocado trees in Colorado I am impressed. I can barely remember to keep one of my newer avocado trees alive here in Florida!

  12. Tina

    I see nothing wrong with it. We had pumpkins growing out of ours one year, from the seeds from the previous fall. Maybe its a tiny bit bad because they take the nutrients from the soil that you were going to put in your garden, but, its what you wanted! So win!

  13. Anna

    No, I think that’s totally awesome and acceptable, and you’re not the first person to accidentally grow things in a compost pile. My friend actually ended up with a hybrid something- yes, a frankenstein.

    But I would love to see Kira grow an avocado in Colorado. (she’s there, right?) At least it would make a good song.

  14. magpie

    compost risotto! you’re awesome. i had acorn squash growing in my “compost” heap a few years ago – for just the same reason. some critter ate them though, not me.

  15. Jean

    I say why bother actually planting a garden next year. Just make your compost pile a larger space and throw in a ton more seeds.

    By the way, totally jealous of your no work squash…bet it is yummy!

    PS…Uncle Bobby’s risotto recipe please :)

  16. Tina

    P.S. We have a bumper crop of butternut squash this year, could you share that recipe please?

  17. RuthWells

    Love it. Though now you have me kind of intrigued by the idea of cocaine risotto….

  18. diane

    Score! It saves you the work of adding the compost to your garden pots and planting the seeds.

    Not only that, it tells you that your compost is nice and nutrient dense and ready to be used!

  19. TracyB

    That’s what they call “organic” right? :)

  20. Sheryl

    When you cut it open, I’m betting 2:1 that you find coffee grounds and egg shells inside.

  21. Sonya

    The only time I have managed to grow decent bnut squash is when they volunteered themselves from the compost bin! Right now I have two stalks of corn growing in there.

  22. Jennifer

    So how do you all feel about melons growing in the horse manure pile? Organic!

  23. Karen

    Hilarious! And since you’re so pretty, perhaps you’d be super nice and email me the recipe for the risotto (Alas I have no squash in my trash).

  24. Karen

    Compost is great material that people turn into the soul of their gardens… So… Big deal, you skipped a step. I would love that recipe.

  25. Jenna

    I think it’s an exceptional story with a bonus at the end! I’m extremely jealous you have a compost pile, I’m currently trying to convince the hubby it’s not “icky” to reuse scraps this way. I would love the recipe for the risotto, too :o)


  26. Little Bird

    Yay for opportunistic butternut squash! See? Opportunistic sounds way better than compost! I have opportunistic sunflowers, thistle, and millet from the messy eaters at the bird feeder. I bet it tastes awesome!

  27. Little Bird

    I think I might want that recipe too! Please? Pretty please? With basil and grated parm on top?

  28. Katherine

    We have cantaloupe (or maybe some hybrid of a cantaloupe) growing in our compost pile this year. It doesn’t look much like one on the outside, but it tastes like a cantaloupe, so YAY! Especially since we’ve tried to grow them in the garden before with no success.

    I got some potatoes from my compost earlier this year, though those I actually transplanted into the garden after I found them starting in the compost.

  29. Paige

    I do not see the slightest problem with eating this squash. I put chicken manure into my vegetable beds for fertilizer. Surely the compost heap is cleaner than that!

    Alas, I do not have a squash growing in my compost heap because my compost heap does not exist. We *want* one, but we rent, and after some the things we found in the “compost heap” left by the former tenants, we decided not to add anything to the pile until its cleared out (Public Service Announcement: barbie legs, beer cans and broken sand toys are not considered compostable. You’re welcome.) 4 years and two kids later, there’s still an untouched “compost heap” in one corner of the yard. On the plus side, the dog no longer finds beer cans in the pile, so perhaps it’s actually compost now!

    While I may not have squash in my compost heap, I’d love to have the recipe for Uncle Bobby’s Bisotto. We love all kinds of risotto at our house!

  30. Audrey

    We have compost tomatoes this year. I think they taste better than our topsoil tomatoes or potted tomatoes.

  31. Jenn

    You’re just saving yourself the trouble of spreading the compost in your garden. We get volunteers like that but usually they’re just outside the compost pile. So I guess that means we’re sloppy. And I’d love a copy of that recipe as well.

  32. Chris

    I have a true garden out back. I also have my “volunteer” garden outside my kitchen window where I occasionally through a scrap when it just isn’t enough to walk to the compost pile. I tend to only toss flowers out there, but occasionally include a food prep scrap so each year I end up with a volunteer. Squash last year, okra before that. This year tomatoes. Eat on I say, ours have all been delish.

  33. Lucinda

    So funny! I have to tell you my compost story. Years ago we bought a bunch of those decorative gourds and pumpkins around Halloween and kept them until they nearly rotted. Then I threw them all in the compost. The end.

    A couple years later I decided to open up the big black compost bin to see if I actually had dirt and I did. Along with a few dried up gourds. Whatever. I put the dirt on my front flower bed and walked away proud of the dirt I had created.

    About a week later my neighbor informed me that I had watermelon growing in my flowerbed. We live in western Oregon. This made no sense. So I watched my mystery plants grow and grow and grow and overtake the flowerbed. By August it became clear that we were growing decorative squash and gourds.

    We harvested well over 100 of these things and I couldn’t give enough of them away. Lesson learned. Never put something with seeds in the compost unless you want to grow it again (which I probably do because it was a great story).

    So no it’s not gross at all that you are eating the squash.

    • 12tequilas

      Gourds rock. I don’t know why, they just do.

  34. Brigitte

    Free bonus squash, yaaay!
    And I suspect saffron costs more than cocaine.

  35. My Kids Mom

    I can’t wait each summer to see what our compost has to surprise us! We’ve had cucumber, pumpkin, watermelon, acorn squash, butternut squash, gourds… anything in that family seems to thrive. We’ve babied all of them, harvested all of them and enjoyed all of them. “Quality soil” is what you’ve got there- “compost” is just the process of making that soil. Yeah, if you think about it, all plants grow in worm poop. Our earth is made of worm poop though, and that’s ok for me.

  36. Holly

    I would also love that recipe. My hubby loves all types of squash so I’m always looking for new recipes.

    Oh, and I would have no problem eating that squash. I’d probably send photos and brag about it to all my friends. No surprise veggies for me, though. My garden and compost pile are sad thanks to the deer that think they’re free buffets.

  37. Jeanette

    I admit I was feeling iffy about compost squash at first but as Beth said, what’s the difference between a squash that grows in compost and one that grows because you put compost in the soil. I would love a copy of the recipe! I’m a huge butternut squash fan.

  38. The Other Leanne

    I used to have a chicken-wire-enclosed compost heap once. I grew a cocker spaniel in it.

  39. Karen R

    Okay, I googled the prices of saffron and cocaine (and hope that the NSA doesn’t pass stuff on to the DEA), and decided that I would rather have the saffron. Enjoy your squash!

  40. Jeanie

    I think it’s awesome! I can’t grow squash on purpose, and here you go and accidentally grow it.

  41. Emily

    It’s fine – and awesome – think about it this way, you are planning to use the compost on your garden eventually anyway right?

  42. Triplezmom

    It’s totally fine as long as you washed it. We’re not allowed to compost where I live (stupid housing association) but we totally throw things over the back fence into the woods sometimes. We now kinda have a pumpkin patch, which I am totally taking advantage of this Halloween.

  43. Jen R

    I would love the recipe too – We love squash love have only 2 recipes. For some reason I always end up staring at the squash on the counter before I go back to the steamed pieces my kids have loved since baby-food time.

  44. Angela

    We used our compost mixed with potting soil to plant a tree in May. When I went to check on the tree yesterday, in the ring around the tree there was a lovely tomato plant growing with about 10 tomatoes on it. It would be a crime to let those go to waste! You can bet I’ll be eating them, and I totally would pick a butternut squash if it grew out of my compost.

  45. Rita

    LikeTotally Awesome (to be said with the appropriate 80’s Valley Girl inflection)

  46. Shannon

    Not gross at all – the compost area is simply a pre-garden bed!

  47. Shannon

    Sorry for the double post – forgot:

    If you have an Indian food store in your area, they are an excellent (as in no appendages required for payment) source for strong saffron. (Take a ziplock baggie though – sometimes it’s only sold in bulk and it’s bring-your-own) No fancy jar or protective film but we’ve managed to get past that.

  48. Becky

    Seeing as I think Squash is gross and compost is gross, I think THIS is gross, but hey, who am I to judge?

  49. ashley

    Awesome! We too have had some ahem “plants” grow in our compost but they never actually produced anything. I’m pretty sure they were cantaloupe or pumpkin or watermelon. I would totally eat compost watermelon.

  50. Cindy

    I believe that’s called the circle of life. Is it wrong that the song from the Lion King is now stuck in my head?

  51. Brenda

    Free no-work organic(ish) squash? This is definitely a win.

  52. Valerie

    Definitely awesome. And I’m also interested in the recipe!

    We haven’t had compost volunteers yet, but the squirrels in our neighborhood have assisted us in gardening numerous times, by planting peanuts, corn and helping us reseed tomatoes. One day, I took some gourds out of the garage where I’d put them to dry out over the winter and they disappeared. We had a storm overnight and the gourds disappeared. Fast forward a few months and we discovered gourds growing in multiple beds. Squirrels had gourdnapped them and replanted the seeds.

    Silly squirrels. If I could just stop them from digging up my bulbs, we’d have a great coexistence.

  53. Korinthia Klein

    I guess I don’t see why it would be gross since the whole point of the compost is to grow things in it. Unless, of course, you ate the demon baby. That would be gross regardless of where it grew.

  54. js

    Is anyone else sad that it wasn’t an avocado? Cause that’s where I thought this was going. Sometimes I eat things that fell on the floor (five second rule). Would this fall under the same heading?

  55. Annie

    I vote awesome. Does chickadee know its origin? And bisotto recipe please!

  56. MM

    Oh girl. Have I got a story for you. I walk into Whole Paycheck (Foods) with my hubby last summer and as we go through the front door he gives a little shiver and says “do NOT try THAT stuff, uhggghghgh it’s terrible damn hippies make the weirdest foods” and points at the free sample cups of…. wait for it…. compost “tea.” He drank liquid compost. He lived, and even grew a few inches ;) So enjoy your noms and please please send the recipe?

  57. lizneust

    Last summer, we got three *perfect* tomatoes from our compost bin. I guess one of the tomatoes from the year before went and grew. It kind of came as a surprise for us too, but they were lovely and ripe and an unusual heirloom variety that we like, so we ate them. Well washed, of course, but delicious with a little salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Organic vegetables!!

  58. not supergirl

    This one’s easy: awesome. I’m ready for the next gross or awesome challenge.

  59. 12tequilas

    Question: I live in Montgomery County, Maryland, and the county likes to give out compost bins! But then they say not to put food scraps in there. I imagine they are worried about attracting vermin? Do you ever have critters back there?

    • AnnieMouse

      by “food scraps,” they generally mean meats and dairy products. :)

      Vegetal matter, paper, hair, et cetra are generally acceptable.

  60. Kailani

    So……how did it taste? I need an update.

  61. MaryP

    I hardly ever peel squash, by the way.. I don’t know what form it has to be in for the risotto, but I nearly always just slice it in half lenghwise, scoop out the seeds, then put it face-down in a pan with an inch or so of water. Bake for an hour at 350 or 375F, and then you just scoop out the soft insides with a spoon. It’ll have the consistency of … wet mashed potatoes, I guess, only lighter.

    It takes longed than peeling and slicing, of course, but it’s way easier. (If you’re uncoordinated like me, you’ll also appreciate the safety factor: one straight cut vs. peeling curves with a sharp knife — much, much less risky.)

  62. Aimee

    I’m a little late to the party, but I think is a win. It’s like you’re a MAGICIAN! You grew a lovely butternut squash and you weren’t even TRYING.

  63. Emma

    Over where I live, they grow squash and pumpkins on manure. So I wouldn’t worry about the compost-grown version.

    (And actually, what’s the difference between growing squash on spread-out-in-the-veggie-patch compost and still-in-the-compost-pile compost? It’s really all the same thing.)

  64. Bryn

    Compost-heap veggies? No problem, the best vegetable gardens are essentially compost mixed into topsoil – your squash just got an overdose of natural nutrients!

    Also roadkill : This causes my beloved wife a degree of “eeewwwwwww!”, but I have stopped & collected the occasional rabbit or pheasant that has come in contact with our car on our local country roads – fresh, and sometimes still twitching (briefly) – delicious!
    My reasoning is that there is no practical difference between a ton of vehicle between the eyes at 50mph, or a .22 pellet from my air rifle……… maybe there are too many farmers in my family……

  65. ailo

    We grow potatoes in ours in the states :)

    Could I also have the recipe? Please please!

  66. Fabs

    Did you tell Chickadee? What did she think?

    • Mir

      It was delicious and she thought it was hilarious. I guess it kind of was.

  67. Linda

    My daughter loves butternut squash. I bet she’d like the recipe,too. Please send.

  68. Pip

    You’re right, that story is gross. I hate risotto :-p

  69. amelia

    Maybe my Southern is showing, but we call those “volunteers” (as in “volunteer squash”) here in Mississippi, and we eat them right up. In fact, I have a coworker who was passing out some volunteer cherry tomatoes just yesterday. Shall I snag you some? :)

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