Favorite Plants / Food / Plant Thoughts

Pumpkins – did you know?

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[Watercolor: Nancy Benthin]

Could pumpkins be the true icon of the 20th and 21st centuries? Well pumpkins should be!

How did the orange fruit gain such popularity outside the kitchen?

Answer: It began with the invention of the home refrigerator.

By the late 1930’s electric refrigerators were in many U.S.A. homes, gradually replacing the older “iceboxes”.

But, before refrigeration was common, the winter squash varieties were about the only fresh fruit that could last through winter.  Families who ate — SQUASHevery week during the winter months, were liberated from the doldrums of repetition by the refrigerator. So  households said “good-bye” to pumpkins, and “hello” to other late summer growing garden treats.

Oh, sad news for the Pumpkin grower?  Perhaps, until someone, probably the family next door, left their unwanted pumpkins sitting on their front porch.

Doesn’t every one want to keep up with the neighbors?  🙂  Soon pumpkins began showing up on nearly every front porch and became “the” decoration signifying a plentiful harvest. Before long the colorful round pumpkins became the fall decorating tradition for Halloween and Thanksgiving celebrations and pumpkin growing and carving contests. Hooray for the All-American Pumpkin!

 Pumpkin Tips:

When it comes to Pumpkins and Squash, the home gardener’s success and satisfaction is a direct result of good planning and practices.

  1. The difference between winter squash and the pumpkin is more culinary than botanical. All winter squash is suited to making pies the same as the pumpkin. Most recipes can substitute a winter squash for a pumpkin and viceversa.
  2. Field pumpkins are grown for carving and decoration – they have a thick skin and stem. Their texture is course.
  3. Winter squash is harvested when they have a deep solid color and a thumbnail cannot penetrate the pumpkin skin.
  4. Do not bruise pumpkins or carry them by the stem.
  5. Pumpkins will keep longer if they are washed with a bleach solution to kill bacteria on the skin. Dilute a cup of liquid bleach in one gallon of water and sponge or dip the fruit in the mix. Drip dry and do not rinse.
  6. Cure before storage.  This will harden the skin. Leave pumpkins and winter squash in a well-ventilated place for about 10 days, between 75/80 degrees.
  7. Store in a dry place on boxes or mesh bags, NOT directly on a cement floor.
  8. Pumpkins are indigenous to the western hemisphere, probably with origins in modern-day Mexico. They have been cultivated in the Americas for over 5,000 years.
  9. Pumpkins flowers are edible.
  10. Pumpkins are 90% water.
  11. Pumpkins belong to the “curcubita” family which includes squash & gourds.

Garden Chatter with Nancy Lee Benthin

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