All You Ever Need To Know About Pumpkins!Leave a Comment
It’s that time of year again – when the howls and laughter of spooks and witches mingle with the swirls of Autumn leaves and fingers are nearly severed by parents everywhere attempting to carve out the endless stringy entrails of Halloween pumpkins…
Yes for us in Britain – the pumpkin isn’t really the most appetising of vegetables/fruits! We are so used to the carving variety that we tend to overlook the tasty, culinary alternatives that are surprisingly easy to grow and cook and as a side note – very low in calories!
But before introductions are made to some of these globular Goddess’s of the Autumn garden, here’s a bit of background on the rotund harbinger of Halloween!
Pumpkins are native to north and central America and have been grown there as a crop for over 5’000 years! However they weren’t used for Halloween celebrations until Irish immigrants came to the USA in the early 19th century and brought their vegetable carving skills over with them. In both Britain and Ireland there had long been a tradition of carving out turnips or Mangelwurzels for ‘All Hallows Eve’ or ‘Samhain’ to create ‘Jack-O -Lanterns’ and on arriving in the US, the Irish started using pumpkins instead. It was only a matter of time before the tradition found it’s way back over here and the old folklore flame was reignited!
So how do you grow them? The best way is to buy your pumpkins as seed – making sure you check the size that the plant will grow to first to ensure you have enough space (don’t worry though there is a pumpkin variety for every size of garden).
Follow the instructions on the packet by either sowing them indoors or directly outdoors later in the year ensuring the seed is planted on its side to make germination easier.
Once in the ground and growing, they will require a feed after a few weeks – use something like a liquid seaweed once a month until August – make sure you use an organic fertilizer if you’re going to eat them!
Raise the ripening fruit off the ground to prevent rotting by placing a tile or upturned seed tray under each fruit tipping it to aid water run off and take off any foliage that is shading each fruit in early September.
Pumpkins must be picked before the first frost – but try and leave it as long as you can so that the fruit ideally is a deep solid colour all over – press a finger nail gently into the skin, if it doesn’t puncture, it is ripe. You may also notice a crack near to the stem and if you tap them they should sound hollow.
Cut off the pumpkin leaving about 8-10cms of stalk on the top as this will increase the keeping time -Once harvested the pumpkins should ideally be left to cure in the sun for a week – this will improve their flavour but be sure to cover them at night if there is any risk of frost as frosted pumpkins won’t keep.
Store your havested pumpkins in a cool dry place such as the garage until you want to eat them – you can hang the smaller ones up in onion bags – but not many to each bag as they bruise easily. They can keep up to six months with a bit of luck.
So once you have your pumpkins – what do you to with them? Check out some great pumpkin recipes here !
There are so many lovely ways to eat them and don’t forget the seeds – they are very tasty too!
Now which pumpkin do you fancy growing? I’ve picked what I think are the pick of the crop – but if anyone knows of a gorgeous one I haven’t included, please feel free to post a comment and share your pumpkin adventures!
For those with not a lot of space – all you need is a sturdy arch or trellis and it makes a beautiful climber – you can of course grow it flat too but it is at its best climbing! Wonderful to eat roasted whole or used for decoration! Fantastic for children as they can scoop out the roasted middles and eat them like a boiled egg!
One of the best culinary pumpkins but can also be used for carving for smaller ‘Jack-O-Lanterns’.
As the name suggests – beautifully sweet and small and perfect for roasting and in soups and pies. Stores well due to its naturally high sugar content. Great for smaller gardens.
‘Jack of All Trades’
As the name suggests – good for everything. Makes a great carving pumpkin due to its flat base and traditional rounded shape – use the flesh in pies or soup.
Not for the traditionalists this one due to its sinister and rather disturbing zombi coloured skin… However it tastes delicious especially roasted as a substitute for sweet potatoes.
Beautifully coloured bright orange fruits – very good yield and lovely for everything!
So there you have it – have fun choosing and just think – this time next year you could be carving and eating your very own home grown pumpkins!
Can’t wait until next year? You can of course buy a pumpkin but alot of the ones grown for the UK market are for carving and don’t make great eaters… You could try using Butternut Squash in the interim – it makes great soups and pies!