Monday, October 30, 2017

Celebrating Pumpkins!

How do we celebrate those bold orange (or white) creations every autumn?   In preparation for Halloween, we carve our pumpkins, or paint them, and embellish  with bling to create cute or scary faces.   We use mini pumpkins in fall décor, both indoors and out.  Pumpkins are the theme for autumn hay rides as children and adults trudge through fields to find that perfect pumpkin treasure.

Pie pumpkins (or canned pumpkin puree) can be used to create culinary delights, like pecan-pumpkin bars or traditional pumpkin pie.   Pumpkin flavors are used extensively in a variety of beverages, and even have invaded the realm of doggie treats!  Another way to celebrate our fascination for pumpkins is to roast the seeds—low and slow in the oven— and eat them plain or toss on salads.  Simply rinse seeds thoroughly, place in a bowl and stir in some canola or olive oil to lightly coat. Spread in single layer on cookie sheets.  Sprinkle with sea salt; roast in oven at 250º for about an hour, or until seeds are dry and starting to brown.

Celebrating pumpkins (genus Cucurbita) is a widespread tradition across the USA.  At a botanical garden in New York, an October celebration spotlights humongous, giant pumpkins with some weighing over 2,000 lbs.   (While Americans are often  obsessed with losing weight, we want our pumpkins to be plump!)

Growing pumpkins in the home garden is another way to celebrate pumpkins.  In years past, I have grown mini pumpkins and jack-o-lantern pumpkins; this summer I grew white pumpkins for the first time, and they provide interesting possibilities for autumn décor.   Pumpkins are considered heavy feeders, so frequent fertilization is needed.   When pumpkin season draws to a close (after seeds are removed for roasting) the fleshy shell can be used for composting—lots of nutrients available that will give back to the soil for next year’s garden!

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture