Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pumpkin

Great to eat - great to carve - good to store - why not try growing them!
You just need a decent sized area as the plant does like a lot of space to send out its vines. Not one for the balconys or pots I'm afraid!

Just started my pumpkin seeds two weeks ago. Spent about 7-10 days in the hot press to help them germinate and this is them just out of the press about 3 days. Its amazing that such a small plant now will take over such a large area of the garden!



Last year we were very lucky with the fabulous big pumpkin we got from one pumpkin plant. Most rotted on us despite lifting them and putting wood/straw underneath them(Irish wet weather!!). We used it in two batches to make a gorgeous pumpkin soup - the second batch was for the starter on Christmas day ( we just froze the roasted pumpkin and garlic until Christmas eve) which everyone raved about!

The recipe I followed was from an Australian website - delish!
http://www.exclusivelyfood.com.au/2006/07/roast-pumpkin-soup-recipe.html


A brief history I found online for those interested - apparently the Irish emigrants to the US were responsible for starting the tradition of carving of pumpkins for Halloween.
http://www.pumpkin-patch.com/about.html

Growing:
Pumpkins are very heavy feeding plants - they grow extremely quickly and as such use large amounts of nutrients and water in the process. Failure to provide the right conditions results in poor size, low yields or even failure to crop. The soil should be very rich, well supplied with well-rotted organic material. Pumpkins need a fair amount of sunshine, so a sunny spot is a must. They also require quite a substantial area as the plant can grow very large.

I wouldn't recommend planting out until late May or early June. You can plant directly into the soil or start them indoors and harden them off before planting outside.

Pumpkins need a lot of water and only water at the root of the plant taking care to minimise the water you get on the leaves and flowers/fruit. Keep an eye on the moisture level of the soil as over-watering can also do damage - just to try to keep the soil moist.

There are male and female flowers that will appear with only the female actually growing into a pumpkin - you can tell the difference between them as there is the mini bulb on the female flower. The male flowers I believe are there to attract the insects to pollinate the plant - transferring the pollen from the male flower to the female flower. If the female flower doesn't get fertilized, it will just fall off the plant.



Male flower on the left - female on the right ( Note the flowers are edible though I haven't tried them myself as yet)

As a general rule of thumb expect to get about two pumpkins off each vine - a good number of the flowers will not succeed.

When the pumpkin has formed and is growing - make sure that it doesn't come in contact with wet soil - this can lead to the pumpkin rotting. 


Harvesting:
You can tell that the pumpkin is ready to harvest when the shell has started to harden( and before any frosts). You can cut off the vine about six inches from the pumpkin ( note - don't lift by the vine as you may break it at the base, so the pumpkin won't store).

If the weather is good, you can leave it outside to colour or ( as is usually the case in Ireland) you can bring the pumpkin indoors where it will continue to darken to a beautiful orange shade.


I will update the details on how my pumpkins are growing through the year - feel free to leave comments or questions.

Nutritional value:
http://urbanext.illinois.edu/pumpkins/nutrition.cfm

Hand pollunating pumpkins:
http://theorganicsister.com/hand-pollinating-pumpkins/

Or a nice video to help you "Pimping the Pumpkins!"