THE wetter-than-usual summer may have been a disappointment for holiday makers but it was enjoyed by pumpkins, with growers reporting bigger than usual fruits. Hot weather in June gave the plants a good enthusiastic start and the wet July and August ‘pumped up’ the pumpkins, which are actually 90% water anyway.
There are a number of places locally offering ‘pick your own pumpkins’ during October including Abergavenny Garden Centre, Maindiff Court Farm and Park Farm in Llangattock, where, along with 16 different varieties of pumpkin to choose from, you’ll also find a spooky barn filled with lots of fun things to do from mini golf to a spooky bouncy castle.
It might be easier to pickup your pumpkin at a supermarket but nowhere near as much fun as ‘choosing your own Cucurbitaceae’ out in the fresh air. I bet you won’t see ‘choose your own Cucurbitaceae’ on any posters but pumpkins are a member of that family, along with their cucumber cousins and melon nieces and nephews. The word ‘pumpkin’ comes from the Greek word ‘peopon’, meaning ‘large melon’. It then evolved to ‘pompon’ in French and ‘pumpion’ in Britain, with the Americans developing it into pumpkin. Personally I think I would have stuck with pumpion.
There are over 45 varieties of pumpkin ranging in colours including orange, red, yellow and green, and with great names like Hooligan, Cotton Candy, and Orange Smoothie. Who wouldn’t want a Hooligan Pumpion?
Pumpkins, and their squash relatives, were also historically one of the ‘Three Sisters’ and would be planted along with sweetcorn and beans allowing the three crops to sustain each other in a technique that was called the ‘Three Sisters Method’. The corn provided a climbing frame for the beans to climb up and they reciprocated by kept the corn stalks stable on windy days. Pumpkins protected the corn’s shallow roots and acted as ground cover keeping weeds at bay.
Every single part of a pumpkin is edible–the skin, leaves, flowers, pulp, seeds, and even the stems–and they are a good source of potassium and vitamin A. As pumpkin skin contains the antioxidants Vitamin C, Vitamin E and betacarotene there is a strong link between pumpkin consumption and protecting eye health, meaning eating pumpkin skin could improve eyesight in the long-term.
Lots of pumpkin dishes – like curries, soup and roast pumpkin–can be made by leaving the pumpkin skin on the flesh, or there are several recipes available for utilising the skin on it’s own. I recommend pumpkin chips (or crisps), which are really tasty and can be made in the air-fryer.
The largest pumpkin recorded in the UK was grown last year by twins Ian and Stuart Paton from Lymington, and weighed 2,656lbs (1,205kg)–as much as a small car – and they only missed out on achieving a new world record by 47lbs.Travelling back from being weighed in Berkshire, where it was officially confirmed as the UK’s heaviest ever pumpkin, it overturned its trailer and caused chaos by blocking a road.
Apparently it was only bruised – not squashed!