October 13, 2014
With fall in the air and Halloween around the corner, it’s pumpkin time at the farm!
I have a large pumpkin and winter squash patch that is planted in early June every year. By the beginning of October, they are ready to be harvested.
Pumpkins are cucurbits, members of the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes squash, cucumber, gourd, watermelon, and cantaloupe.
I love decorating and cooking with pumpkins and winter squash. It’s a wonderful autumn tradition around here, and all across America.
1 My gardener, Ryan McCallister, harvesting pumpkins at my farm. The name pumpkin originated from "pepon" – the Greek word for "large melon," and "cooked by the sun."
2 Pumpkins and winter squash grow in the field on plants which have long sprawling vines that cover the ground. When the vines and leaves start to wither and die back, it's time to harvest.
3 Here the pumpkins are ready to be harvested. Pumpkin seeds should be planted between the last week of May and the middle of June. They take between 90 and 120 days to grow and are picked in October when they are bright orange in color. Their seeds can be saved to grow new pumpkins the next year.
4 Ryan carefully snips the pumpkins from the vines with pruning sheers. It's important to leave a generous stem, also called a handle. He is careful not to injure the rind or break off the stem, as decay fungi will attack through the wounds.
5 We grow many, many varieties of pumpkins and squash at my farm. We also grow hundreds of gourds which I will show you in an upcoming blog!
6 Pumpkins and winter squash come in so many shapes, sizes, an colors, even dark green!
7 Here the Kawasaki is fully loaded with a variety of winter squash. Squash have been grown in North America for five thousand years. They are indigenous to the western hemisphere but today are grown all over the world on six of the seven continents. Antarctica is the exception.
8 Ryan and Dendi, one of my grounds crew, showing off some very large Blue Hubbard squash! Blue Hubbards are huge, teardrop-shaped fruit weighing 15-40 lbs. They have sweet, fine-grained, golden flesh. The hard, blue-gray shell helps these keep for long periods in storage. The Gregory Seed Company introduced this New England variety in 1909, and Mr. Gregory considered this his best introduction.
9 Farmers have grown this large, bumpy fruit for thousands of years. Modern pumpkins grow commercially in the United States, China, Mexico, and India. Farmers in the United States grow more than a billion pounds annually, with Illinois growing the most.
10 I like to leave multiple stems on the pumpkin, not just one. I think this helps them last longer, and I like the way they look.
11 No 'decorating' is required. Just lining them up makes a wonderful display.
12 I love how these pumpkins look lined up on this stone wall at the back of my house.
13 Did you know that pumpkins and other forms of squash made up one leg of the triad of maize, beans, and squash -- that once formed the basic diet of Native Americans?
14 Pumpkins are a good source of nutrition. They are low in calories, fat and sodium and high in fiber. They are loaded with vitamins A and B and potassium.
15 The seeds are very high in protein and are an excellent source of B vitamins and iron.
16 We grow pumpkins and squash from heirloom seeds. Heirlooms are old-time varieties, open-pollinated instead of hybrid, and saved and handed down through multiple generations of families. Here are some of my favorite heirloom seed companies: The Homestead Seeds http://goo.gl/yzcDVp, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds http://goo.gl/Fg4rK, Johnny's Selected Seeds http://goo.gl/7QQ1VQ, and Seedsavers Exchange http://goo.gl/6WmA.
17 Did you know that throughout history, pumpkins were used for many medicinal purposes? They were once thought to cure freckles and used as a remedy for snakebites.
18 Here the squash are displayed on an iron plant stand.
19 Here are more squash displayed on a little electrical shed at my farm. I love this time of year!