The flavour and satisfaction of growing your own pumpkins is immense. They are an easy to grow vegetable that even the most novice of gardeners will have success with.
- Common eating varieties: Crown, Queensland Blue, Crown Prince, Butternut
- Old fashioned varieties: Tiamble and Marina di Chioggia are worth looking out for.
- Small varieties for tubs and pots: Triamble, Baby Bear, Peak A Boo
- Giant Pumpkins: Atlantic Giant, Big Boy – these pumpkins are not used for eating.
When, where and how to plant:
Germinate seeds in late winter or early spring in sheltered areas or after the frosts has finished in cold areas, unless you have a glass house. You can expect to see seedlings appear in 7 to 10 days. Seedlings and young plants are frost tender.
Choose a sunny position and dig over the site well. Pumpkins love rich soil so add plenty of compost and well rotted manure or sheep pellets.
You can grow pumpkins in containers if space is an issue, choose a smaller growing variety and a large container and place pot in a sunny position.
Pumpkins need a long growing season of approx 4 - 6 months depending on where you live. Plant out as soon as threats of frosts have past and keep well watered while the plant is establishing. Pinch out main stems once growth starts to encourage more lateral stems, this will give you a heavier crop of fruit. To encourage large pumpkins allow only two to three to develop on each plant. Remove excess leaves to aid ripening of Pumpkins, but don’t be tempted to remove too many leaves as this will reduce the amount the plant can photosynthesize limiting growth and potential flavour. Water in the morning where possible and avoid getting water on the foliage. In some areas you may need to lift pumpkins up off cold wet ground onto straw, cardboard or boards to prevent fruit from rotting.
The general rule of thumb is to harvest pumpkins after the first frost. If you live in a mile climate you may pick once the pumpkins have coloured up and sound hollow when you knock the shell with your knuckles. If the skin of the pumpkin is hard and doesn’t leave a dent when ‘knocked’ it is ripe. Once the leaves have died away is another way to know your pumpkins are ripe. The pick cut the pumpkins from the vine leaving the stem on the Pumpkin. This is important because if you cut it off you leave a wound which may cause the pumpkin to rot rather than store well. Place in a dry, dark place away from rain and weather. Garages, wood sheds and tool sheds are perfect – just keep them up off the ground.
How to use:
Pumpkin can be used in numerous ways in Soups, cakes, muffins, pies, risottos, roasted and mashed.
Pumpkin Risotto Balls With Mascarpone And Shaved Parmesan
1 litre chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek cleaned, trimmed and white part sliced finely
2 cups pumpkin, grated
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup parmesan, freshly grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g bocconcini, diced
flour for dusting
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
shaved parmesan cheese
Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan and keep warm. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry leek until soft, about 3 minutes. Add rice and stir over a low heat for 3-4 minutes. Add one ladle of warm stock, and stir constantly with wooden spoon until liquid is absorbed, add another ladle and pumpkin, and stir. Keep adding stock slowly and stirring constantly for 20 minutes, cooking both rice and pumpkin. When cooked add butter and parmesan, stir through season to taste and leave to cool.
Once cool mix through boconcinni, roll into balls and dust with flour, dip in egg and then bread crumbs. Heat oil in a fry pan and shallow fry the risotto balls until golden, drain and leave to cool.
Serve at room temperature with a dollop of mascarpone and a shave of parmesan.