When I plant my garden each year, two things are guaranteed to happen: I arrogantly predict which crop is going to be a beauty that year, and Mother Nature responds by turning a different crop into the blockbuster. We’ve never seen eye to eye so it came as no surprise to me that, this year, pumpkins ran amok in the garden.
So prolific and early were the pumpkins that I had fully ripe ones before harvesting a single cucumber from the patch. The vines climbed up and over beds, roses, and sunflowers to reach the front yard. Friends touring the garden often started counting all of the orange gourds, only to stop in exhaustion because of the sheer number of fruit before them. Tall, flat, round, and itty-bitty, this is the year of the pumpkin for us.
I blame All America Selections for this. Between their Cinderella’s Carriage, Sorcerer, Wee-B-Little, and Pepitas, there are pumpkins all over the place. Each one has endearing attributes and, though all are orange, they serve very different purposes.
|Cinderella's Carriage, Courtesy AAS|
|Sorcerer, Courtesy AAS|
Sorcerer: If you want a big, traditional Jack O’ Lantern, Sorcerer has all the right magic. It has a deep orange color with light ribbing that give it a classic pumpkin look. These were the ones rambling along the garden and spellbinding passersby; their size and gorgeous coloring had neighbors and friends commenting on them.
|Wee-B-Little Courtesy AAS|
|Pepitas, Courtesy AAS|
Pepitas: The real winner in this year’s pumpkin patch was this gorgeous little pumpkin. With stripes and speckles of green against an orange background, this was the plant that produced and ripened fruit before the cucumbers even thought about flowering. From a cook’s perspective, Pepitas has what its larger cousins don’t: naked seeds. So if you love pumpkin seeds but not the dry hull, go naked with Pepitas.Help your pumpkin last with these tips:
- Strong stems keep the pumpkin fresh, so look for those that are fully attached to the skin.- Choose firm, not mushy pumpkins. Avoid those with cuts in the skin; they’ll rot quickly.
- Keep your pumpkin cool, not freezing or overly hot. Store away from direct sunlight, and bring it in if frost is predicted.
Once your pumpkin is picked and safely home, keep it fresh and ready for the big night with these tips:- Wait to carve your pumpkin until one or two days before Halloween.
- Scrape out the walls to a thickness of one inch for easiest carving.- Immediately after carving, smear petroleum jelly over the interior and cut surfaces to lock moisture in.
- Pumpkins wilt in three days; perk yours up by soaking it in water. Mix one teaspoon of bleach to one gallon of water to prevent mold from growing.