I love this time of year and all the piles of pumpkins in stores and the u-pick farms.
It’s time for fall harvests and pumpkins are everywhere. In the garden, nothing delights kids more than to see bright orange fruits peeking out from under a vine. Growing pumpkins is not for every garden. The sprawling vines take over, under and all around a garden space. In my small Potager, (kitchen garden) in the midst of everything else I want to grow, I always make room for a pumpkin plant or two. This year, I had one vine dangle over the top of the fence with a small pumpkin hanging on for dear life!
Even though it is out of season to talk about growing them, here are some tips to consider when planning your next growing season. To help reign in the long pumpkin vines here are a few tricks I use to conserve space. As soon as I see a softball sized fruits forming, I cut off any new growth beyond that fruit. This allows it to grow bigger and ripen, rather than have the plant continue to put energy into forming more. I also gently move the vines as they are growing and start to form a large spiral (without breaking them) rather than allow the vines to take off in all directions. Turn growing pumpkins occasionally to avoid them being lopsided. Leave them on the vine as long as possible if they are still green to promote ripening. Harvest pumpkins when the vine begins to die out and the pumpkin is showing its full, rich color.
Pumpkin varieties vary from good carving to the sweet varieties for eating. Carving pumpkins are typically grown for size and not for baking. Carvers to grow include “Howden”, “Racer” and “Connecticut Field”. For baking choose, the Cinderella pumpkin “Rouge VIF D’Etampes”, “Small Sugar” and “SnackJack”. Unique novelties to grow are “Lumina” (white skinned, yellow flesh), “Baby Boo”, “Jack-B-Little” and “Jarrahdale”
Harvest and enjoy!
Recipes to try:
Pick the sweet varieties for baking. The pulp can be used in pies, soups, cakes and cookies.
Cut the pumpkin in half. Remove the seeds and fibers. Place the cut halves on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 350° oven for 20 to 60 minutes (depending on the size). The pumpkin is done when the skin is brown and you can easily push a fork through it. Allow to cool and scoop the flesh out of the skin. Puree or mash it. It should have a consistency of pudding. To preserve, pack into freezer bags in 2 cup quantities. Two cups of mash will equal about a 16 ounce can. Use in pies, soups, and cookies.
This brings back memories when I was little girl in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. We once had a Thanksgiving dinner at the Old Salem Inn. As a kid the thought of pumpkin soup sounded weird, but the taste was good!
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups cooked, mashed pumpkin
3 cups half and half milk
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
½ teaspoon pepper
1/8th teaspoon powdered allspice
1/8th teaspoon ginger
Salt to taste
In a saucepan, melt the butter, and then add the pumpkin. Stir well and add remaining ingredients. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Serve in bowls or mugs. If desired, top with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds, croutons, a dollop of sour cream, fresh parsley or small snips of chives.