Growing Pumpkins and keeping the old strains alive
Growing pumpkins is relatively easy, but if you want the really tasty original varieties then you had better read on.
The pumpkin is one of the staple vegetables that you can grow in your garden and store over Summer and eat for six months. It seems everywhere I go someone is cooking pumpkin soup. It is cheap, readily available and the recipe can be varied. Add some coconut cream and a kaffir lime leaf and you have an interesting variation. You can also roast the pumpkin first to get some extra flavour into the soup and add a tomato and carrot.
Identifying Real Pumpkin Seed
Pumpkins or Cucurbita maxima can be identified by the cellophane coating around the seed. They will cross pollinate with each other so resulting in the original pumpkin variety being lost.
Follow these basic rules. Only grow one Cucurbita maxima species in your garden. This way it is isolated from other pumpkins. If you are in a suburban area check that your neighbours aren’t growing other varieties of pumpkin nearby to avoid cross-pollination.
Of course in the city it is more difficult to grow pumpkins as they require a fair bit of room, but if you have a community garden nearby see if you can liaise with the rest of people to grow one Cucurbita maxima species per year in the garden thereby keeping some fantastic old varieties alive.
Old dry varieties of pumpkin are superior for baking
This Cinderella Pumpkin is a beauty. It is probably an old variety like Jarrahdale and is very tasty, firm and great for roasting. If you cook it it holds it’s shape and doesn’t melt into a gooey stringy mess. Other old dry varieties are Hubbard Squash, Ironbark and Queensland Blue.
Do not confuse Pumpkins with Grammas or Cucurbita moschata. Butternut is a gramma and will not cross with pumpkins but will cross with other Grammas. These can be identified by the fact that they have a raised ridge around the edge of the seed and don’t have a cellophane coating.
In times of escalating food costs and chronic lack of good wholesome unadulterated food, this humble cucurbit is a great vegetable to grow. Spring is the time to plant the seed. So make a nice fertile mound of compost in the full sun and plant three or four seeds in the mound. A nice rainy day when the moon is waxing is best. Give them plenty of room to spread unhindered by lawn mowers and whipper snippers.
You won’t know if your seed has cross pollinated until you grow it out the first time. So source of seed is very important. Once you have a variety that is true to type, keep it pure and then save the seeds. If you pass it on to your friends make sure they know about this so they keep their seed pure too.
Roast off excess seed for kids healthy snack food
Oh and remember, never put the seed in the compost. You will have all sorts of rogue pumpkins coming up and you wont know which ones are the good ones. Save the seed instead and roast it off. The seed is an excellent snack food for the kids. Good pumpkin varieties will keep for up to six months, so if you have a bumper crop you’ll be eating pumpkins most of the year. Happy Gardening. Let’s cut out the middle man and grow our own.