Our Dunvegan Gardens Pumpkin Festival is October 6 and this month we celebrate Pumpkins.
We will have 3 contests at our Festival: Best Pie, Best Carving, Biggest Pumpkin
There is so much you can do with pumpkins, they truly are a nutritious food to add to soups, stews, casseroles and of course muffins, pie and cookies. You can freeze pumpkin to use at a later date as well.
Growing pumpkins is relatively easy in the north, we recommend getting a small plant already started from our nursery in the spring. There are so many types and kinds of pumpkins, from the sweet pie pumpkins to the huge and massive. The current world record holder is 1,000 kilograms.
Pick a sunny patch with rich deep soil, that is not too soggy, they like moist roots, and not too dry. Pumpkins take a lot of nutrients from the ground so be sure to add some mature compost or manure to the soil.
Give your plants a lot of room to grow, not just a bit – a lot of room, pumpkin plants grow with large leaves, prickly stems and grow long vines.
You do not need a cross-pollinator with pumpkins because the plants actually produce male and female flowers on the same plant. You do need bees to pollinate between the flowers, the female flowers are the ones that produce the fruit. If your plant is not producing you may need to pollinate it by hand with a small paintbrush.
How do you know if the pumpkins are ready to pick?
- Listen for a hollow thump when you tap it, much like a watermelon
- Make sure the vine has died down and turned brown
- Pumpkin skin should be hard like a shell
- Cut off the stem with a sharp knife or a pair of pruners
Pumpkins that are green will turn orange with warmth and sunshine even after they are picked.
To cook a pumpkin: put a couple of knife slices (like poking a baked potato) into the sides of the whole pumpkin, a really important step so they do not blow up in your oven. Place onto a cookie sheet and put into a 250 oven for 2-3 hours, or until it is soft with a fork or knife poke. If the pumpkins are too high you can snap off the woody stem at the top as you will not need it.
Once baked, cut them in half and let them cool, then scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff. Some people will keep the seeds and roast them to eat, then with a spoon, scrape the “meat” away from the skin, this is the part you use for baking and cooking or freeze it to use throughout the winter.