With fall in the air and Halloween just weeks away, it’s pumpkin picking time here at my farm!
I have a large pumpkin and winter squash patch that's planted in early June every year. My gardeners and I plant lots and lots of pumpkin seeds - many from our favorite seed companies, and some from interesting and tasty fruits I’ve enjoyed in years past. By late September and early October, they're ready to be harvested. Ryan and Wilmer were busy picking pumpkins this week ahead of some expected heavy rain.
Take a look at our bounty and enjoy these photos.
This year, we planted the pumpkin patch on the far side of the vegetable garden down by the chicken yard. This area is spacious and receives lots of full sun. The large leaves cover over most of the cucurbits as they form, so it is hard to see the beauties underneath.
However, at the end of the growing season, when the foliage on the vines begins to wither and turn brown, all the pumpkins and squashes become quite visible.
Wilmer cut each one off its vine using a sharp pair of garden clippers, trying to keep as much of the stem intact as possible.
The name pumpkin comes from the Greek word ‘pepon’ which means large melon. The pumpkin is a cucurbit, a member of the Curcurbitaceae family, which also includes squash, cucumbers, watermelon and cantaloupes. There are so many different varieties.
This ribbed, flat pumpkin is ‘Musque de Provence’ a thick, deep orange pumpkin with moderately sweet flesh.
We have such a wonderful variety, including traditional orange pumpkins for Halloween. The long green one is called ‘Naples Long’. The skin is a deep green, and the flesh is bright orange. This variety can weigh up to 50-pounds. Its flavor is rich and very sweet.
‘Hooligan’ pumpkins weigh less than a pound each and are deeply ribbed with long, dark green handles. They have an excellent sweet pumpkin flavor which is slightly nutty.
“Munchkins’ are productive mini pumpkins that are popularly used for decorating.
Wilmer lined the wheelbarrow with a packing blanket and carefully placed each pumpkin inside, never lifting by the stem to avoid breakage. The green oddly shaped one is called a ‘Triamble’, an unusual, triangular, blue-skinned fruit weighing up to 12-pounds.
Pumpkin seeds should be planted between the last week of May and the middle of June – we planted ours June 9th. They take between 90 and 120 days to grow. The seeds can be saved to grow new pumpkins the next year.
Ryan is careful not to injure the rind as decay fungi will attack through the wounds.
These white pumpkins are called ‘Valenciano’. They are slightly ribbed, with a smooth white skin, and thick, orange flesh suitable for pies.
This is a ‘Green Striped Cushaw’ – striking green and white striped fruits that are great for cooking.
This is ‘Sunlight’- an eye-catching four to six pound yellowish pumpkin.
Ryan and Wilmer are pleased with how productive the pumpkin patch was this year. Ryan is holding a ‘Knuckle Head’ pumpkin – a large fruit with numerous warts – a must for Halloween.
I like to leave multiple stems on the pumpkins whenever possible. I think this helps them last longer, and I like the way they look.
Several loads of pumpkins and squash were taken to my carriage house in our new Polaris Ranger. The big white pumpkin is ‘Polar Bear’. It retains its color after maturity in the field, at market, and in decorative displays.
Ryan lined a section of the carriage house floor with newspaper, and categorized the harvest by type and edibility.
Pumpkins are a good source of nutrition. They are low in calories, fat and sodium and high in fiber. They are also loaded with vitamins A, B and potassium.
Wilmer wiped down all the pumpkins with a damp cloth.
Always choose winter squash that is rich and deep in color. The skin should be dull and matte. Shiny skin on squash may indicate it still needs time to mature.
This is a mix of butternut squash, honey nut squash, and spaghetti squash. The big fruits on the right with tapered ends and bumpy, blue-green, hard shells are ‘Blue Hubbards’. They are medium-dry, and medium-sweet, with yellow flesh.
Ryan carefully spaced all the fruits, and made sure all were clean and intact.
We grow many 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.
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.
We also grow many ornamental gourds. They come in a mix of shapes and are perfect for decorating. The colors can range from cream and yellow to green and bicolored.
Pumpkins and winter squash come in so many shapes, sizes, and colors!
Look at our wonderful bounty. Let me know how productive your pumpkin and winter squash crops are this year.