2019 is the National Garden Bureau's Year of the Pumpkin. The association with with autumn, Halloween and Thanksgiving will be with us always but the pumpkin is also a very nutritious and healthful Cucurbitaceae that should not be overlooked in our year round diet.
Pumpkin is said to help regulate blood pressure and promote heart health. It is low in calories, fat and sodium and rich in fiber, potassium, iron, and vitamins A, B and C. Besides pie, pumpkin is excellent in soups, stews, casseroles, pasta, and sauces.
Start pumpkin seeds indoors in mid-April or seed pumpkins directly into the garden from late-May to mid-June giving them plenty of space to spread out. Flowers will need to be pollinated to set fruit. This can be left to bees or done by hand. Some gardeners turn their pumpkins while they grow to keep them from flattening on one side but be careful not to step on vines. You will know when it's time to harvest by the stems that will begin to dry out. Harvest before the first frost.
The first European settlers were introduced to pumpkins by the local indigenous peoples who ate the flesh roasted and used the skins for fibers to weave into mats. The Europeans improvised a way to roast pumpkins by cutting the top off, hollowing them out then filling them with milk, honey and spices and roasting them over hot embers.
Make a rich and delicious soup by combining pureed pumpkin with sauteed onions and garlic, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, chicken stock, water and heavy cream. See link for recipe
You can also harvest pumpkin seeds. The seeds of some varieties are in hulls. Roast these until golden brown for a crunchy treat. Or grow pumpkin with "naked" seeds for eating raw or lightly roasted.
Pumpkins are available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Some are better for cooking while others are great for carving or painting or just looking pretty in a table display. Check out the National Garden Bureau's article on pumpkins for varieties that suit your needs and aesthetics.
Growing pumpkins is also a great way to get kids interested in gardening.
Here are links to helpful YouTube videos on growing pumpkins
This British series on pumpkin growing is full of good tips
Article submitted by Pam Davies MGV
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Diversity in the garden