Ripe, vibrant, almost glowing orange pumpkins are one of the delights of the Autumnal garden or allotment. we wait a long time for them to plump up in the garden but imagine the excitement when it is time to harvest. The fruit is highly versatile having found its way into soups, cakes, pies and various tarts. Roasting them turns the flesh into something ultra yummy for further processing in the kitchen. For many, carving them into Jack O’Lanterns in the American tradition has been the fate of many a pumpkin. Whilst it is a gourd, we review the best ways to sow and look after your pumpkin.
Pumpkins are not just for Halloween. They are a classic squash for the dinner table and are versatile enough to be used in desserts as well as main course or entrees. We look at how the pumpkin is best grown on and then stored. We tend to sow them as we would other squashes and courgettes.
Maintenance Of The Plants
Once the fruits start forming, feed the plant with high potash liquid feed. This should be done every 10 to 14 days to encourage healthy growth.
Let these little beauties ripen in as much sun as possible.
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Harvesting and Drying Pumpkins
Take time to dry pumpkins and winter squashes carefully. They will last throughout the winter and will taste as good in February as they did when they were first cut in late September or October. Here we review the best methods to keep these valuable vegetables.
- Leave fruits on the plant for as long as possible and before any early frosts hit them. Heavy fruits like pumpkins will rot on bare earth if they sit on it. Provide support where feasible. Raise each one on bricks or other firm supports like planks of wood, pallets, net supports, old bras (yes – old bras !) to increase air circulation as this is a good measure. If they are not too big, try to turn each one by a quarter every few days. Remove any leaves that are shading the skins so they make the most of any available sunshine. As much exposure to the sun as possible please – it helps them really ripen fully.
- Pumpkin plants like any squash will die down naturally. When the leaves turn yellow, knock the fruits and when they sound hollow, you know they are ripe. Leave the neck intact and cut them away with about 10cm of stem attached, like a ‘T’. A good seal should be assured as a result of leaving enough stem.
- Curing the skins hardens the carapace which protects the flesh underneath. Expect this process to take 3 weeks. Place the pumpkins in a single layer on the floor of a shed or greenhouse. Turn every few days to obtain an even cure. If you are lucky enough to have good sum throughout October and November, then by all means dry them in that sunshine. Drying this way just helps intensify the flavours and colours.
- Store the pumpkins in a dry, cool and well ventilated place. A rack is good because of the need for air circulation and always lay stalk downwards. These keep for up to 6 months. Any signs of spoiling means they must be used as soon as possible. We freeze chunks for pies and roasting.