‘Turkish turban’, ‘Jack be little’, ‘Atlantic giant’, ‘Waltham Butternut’ and ‘Jap’ are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes the number of named cultivars of pumpkins out there that can be grown in the home garden.
Did you know that currently the largest pumpkin in world weighed in at over 1000kg?
There are three main species of Pumpkin;
Curcubita maxima, Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita moshata and within these three species are many, many named cultivars.
Listen to Claire’s recent ABC612 show Unearthing The Humble Pumpkin.
This vegetable is actually a fruit (seeds on the inside) and originated in Central and Southern America. When European explorers brought it back to Europe the population, for many years fed it only to livestock!
The word pumpkin is Greek, meaning large melon, which is fitting as pumpkins are part of the Curcubitaceae family, which includes, squash, cucumbers, melons, gourds and zucchinis.
The pumpkin is an annual vine that needs to be grown throughout the warmer months of the year if you reside in a temperate area and and can be grown all year round in frost free subtropical and tropical regions. A full sun position in compost rich soil with a near neutral pH is perfect for pumpkin growing success.
Pumpkins are best planted as seed directly into the location it is to grow in or alternatively, if trying to start them off early in the season, sow into biodegradable jiffy pots and once the first set of true leaves has grown plant it out into the garden, pot and all.
Vines will need to be planted at least 1-2m apart and one way to reduce the never-ending growth of the vine is to prune off the tip growth when they reach around 1.5 to 2m in length, this will encourage lateral growth as well as fruit setting. An added bonus is these tender green new growth shoots that have been tipped pruned off can be eaten in stir-fries and sautéed.
Consistent watering is also important to prevent the splitting of pumpkins whilst they are growing.
When your pumpkin vine starts to flower it will often produce male flowers first and the female flowers will then follow. The vines will have both male and female flowers on the one plant and it is sometimes best to hand pollinate to ensure good pollination has taken place. This will need to be done early in the morning as flowers often close by mid-morning.
Why do I need to hand pollinate?
The pollen of pumpkins is quite fickle and is easily affected by low humidity, excess rain, high temperatures, low temperatures, and windy conditions and so forth.
When there has been poor pollination sometimes pumpkins will form but fall off the vine when quite small. This can also occur because of water stress, lack of calcium, lack of bees, too much nitrogenous fertiliser, being stung by cucumber fly and pollen issues.
Pest & Disease:
Pumpkins can be susceptible to fungal problems such as, downy and powdery mildews and one way to avoid this happening is grow your pumpkin vines in an open airy location and do not water your plants and their foliage in the late afternoon. There is a range of organic fungicide options if these fungal problems do get a hold, copper sprays, eco-fungicide and wettable sulphur (in cooler areas).
Other Possible pumpkin problems.
Pumpkin beetle: Certified organic pyrethrum spray
Mosaic Viruses: Plant removal
Rodent damage: chicken wire cages around individual growing fruit.
Whilst your pumpkins are growing it is advisable to place dry clean straw under your pumpkin fruit to keep them clean and stop any rotting or damage occurring.
When your pumpkin vines starts to die you know it is almost pumpkin harvesting time.
To pick your pumpkins leave at least a 6cm stem on the fruit as this stops any fungal or bacterial problems entering the fruit at its weakest point.
Your pumpkins will need to cure. Curing is where you leave your pumpkins in a sunny location for about 2 weeks to cure.
Once cured your pumpkins can last up to 10 months if kept in dark, dry location.
Eat your pumpkin:
Pumpkins are such a versatile fruit lending themselves to sweet and savoury dishes.
You can use pumpkin in curries, cakes, soups, salads, pies, stews, desserts and even beer!
Pumpkin flowers are also edible.
The seeds are also edible and taste wonderful after being roasted in a moderate oven for a short spell and then salted or seasoned.
Pumpkins are full of vitamins like Vitamin A and antioxidants such as, lutein, xanthin and carotene fibre.
Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread
250g unsalted butter – softened.
1 ¾ cups gluten free floor
1 ½ tsp gluten baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 ¼ cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups of pumpkin puree
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 4 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch loaf pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, 7 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each is added and scrape down bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla.
With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat until just combined. Add pumpkin and buttermilk and beat until just combined.
- Transfer batter to pan, smooth top, and bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes (cover with foil if overbrowning). Let cool in pan on a wire rack, 15 minutes.
Turn out onto rack to cool.
To Master Chef this up, why not try adding either ¼ cup of chopped crystallized ginger, ½ cup of chocolate drops, or dried cranberries. These can be folded into the mix before it goes into the baking pan.
Ironbark, Qld Blue, Gramma, Golden nugget, Galeux D’Eysines, Jarrahdale, Jack be Little, Jack o lantern, Kent, Red Kuri, Musquee de Provence, Potimarron, Lakota, Delicata mini, Japanese futus, Buttercup, Turk’s Turban, Munchkin, Baby blue, Jap, Rouge vif d’etampes, Marina di Chioggia are just some of the more commonly found pumpkin varieties found in Australia. Eden seeds & The Diggers Club.
Aussie heirloom favourite pumpkins: Jap, Ironbark, Qld Blue, Australian butternut, Triamble, Jarrahdale.