by Heather Stone
When you hear the word pumpkin what comes to mind first? Is it autumn, Halloween, jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin pie or pumpkin spice latte perhaps. There are so many things to love about pumpkins. They are fun to grow and fun to eat. This year the National Garden Bureau named 2019 The Year of the Pumpkin, so let’s celebrate the pumpkin. https://ngb.org/year-of-the-Pumpkin/
Pumpkins are part of the Cucurbitaceae family along with squash, cucumbers and melons. There are a wide selection of pumpkin varieties ranging in size from as little as 4 oz to some weighing over several thousand pounds. Just this past fall a New Hampshire man grew the largest pumpkin on record weighing in at 2,528 lbs. Now, that would make a lot of pumpkin pie.
Pumpkins are easy to grow. They can be started indoors or directly sown into warm (70 degrees), rich, fertile soil when all danger of frost has passed. Sow the seed into “hills” of 4-6 seeds and thin to the 2 strongest plants per hill. Make sure to give your pumpkins plenty of room to grow to get the best fruit. Depending on the variety you are growing, pumpkins need anywhere from 12 sq.ft. to 48 sq.ft. of growing space. Water your pumpkin seedlings regularly and fertilize throughout the growing season. When it comes time to harvest make sure to cut the pumpkins from the vine when the skin is hard and leave a 3” piece of the stem attached to decrease the chances of decay.
Pumpkins aren’t just fun to grow. They are fun to eat too! We use pumpkins to make soups, breads and pies. We put pumpkin in smoothies, yogurt and even pancakes. Check out some of these great pumpkin recipes. But the flesh of the pumpkin isn’t the only tasty part. Roasted pumpkin seeds make a great snack too. Pumpkin flesh is rich in vitamin A, potassium and beta carotene. The seeds are a good source of protein and are rich in minerals such as manganese, phosphorous, magnesium and zinc. Not all pumpkins are created equal. There are pumpkins for carving and decorating and there are pumpkins for eating. Look for pie pumpkins and cooking pumpkins for the best taste. Two of my favorites are Cinderella and Long Island Cheese, but there are countless choices.
So what kind of pumpkin will you grow this year?