The pumpkin! It’s not just for decorating your front porch. It can be used in pies, breads, soups, stews, and most commonly as a decoration. It’s one of the few things you can grow in a garden that people will always stop and walk to talk about. The questions are mainly focused around size but are always fun to ponder/predict just how big the largest one will get. For my purposes the largest ones aren’t always the best option and some of the 3 to 4 pound option fit my needs perfectly. Alas the major drawback to raising winter squash (I use pumpkin and winter squash interchangeable) ,for my apartment homestead, is the amount of space that is required. Without checking my notes I believe the smallest vine I’ve encountered on a winter squash is 10 ft. That’s a major space hog when you’re dealing with a garden that is only 10 ft by 20 ft. I’m working on some vertical growing options but that’s a work in progress. You have to have the correct structure as well as squash variety and I haven’t found the best combination yet. Until then I use my backup plan.
So how do you raise winter squash when you have limited space or aren’t able to raise them at all? You ask a friend or in my case I bribed my parents for extra space. Over the years I’ve had a lot of people offer me space in their yards for a few extra plants here and there. Most of the time I don’t take them up on the offer, but every now and then I do. In this case I wasn’t offered space at my parents, but I knew they had extra space. My parents are not winter squash people and my dad thinks they are way too much work. So keeping this in mind I had to come up with a way to get them to plant a few plants for me this year. I started up the pitch with wouldn’t it be fun if you grew something you hadn’t grown in a while. They must have caught on to what I was thinking because I got a quick no. So then I went the more direct approach and asked directly about planting winter squash. Once again I got a no even after telling them the history of the variety I wanted them to grow. The last time I remembered talking in detail about planting winter squash with my parents I ended the conversation with how about I just sent you the seeds and if you get bored you can stick a few in the ground. The answer was once again NO. I got back to my apartment and figured oh well I’ll send them and see what happens. (I’ve worked in sales for years so hearing no a few times never stopped me) 6 weeks after putting the seeds in the mail I got a text from my dad complaining that only 4 of the 15 seeds he had planted come up. I responded in my normal fashion with so No turned into 4 plants. That’s a pretty good return on investment. Needless to say I didn’t get a response back from that text, but I do have 7 Long Island Cheese squash to pickup when I’m home for deer season in a few weeks. I wouldn’t recommend taking this approach with a friend, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
The first pumpkin I ever grew from seed was by mistake. I was about 9 years old and had my very own compost pile. (yes, it didn’t take much to make me happy). The year before I had placed my Halloween pumpkin into my compost pile not knowing that I might end up with some pumpkin vines the following year if I wasn’t careful. Well as the weather began to warm I ended up with an assortment of vines coming out of the compost pile. I didn’t pay much attention to them until I noticed one vine doing extremely well and didn’t have the heart to remove it. It grew all over my compost pile and out into the yard. By the end of the summer it had produced one very large pumpkin that I was extremely proud of. It looked exactly like any of the best future jack-o-lantern pumpkins. I eventually turned it into a pie, which I sort of remember not tasting that great, but it was my first pumpkin. I’ve since learned there is a reason some pumpkins are used only for carving or animal feed.
The easiest way to process a pumpkin or any winter squash is to cut it in half. Scrap out the seeds and bake the two halves in the oven at 375 degree. Depending on the size of the squash the amount of time required for baking with vary. You can use a fork to check when the pumpkin is done. When a fork inserts easily into the flesh the pumpkin is ready and can be taken out of the oven. Allow the pumpkin to cool to touch and scrap out the flesh inside leaving the skin behind. At this point you can freeze it or use it in your favorite pumpkin dish. I tend to use a hand blender to puree the pumpkin so that it mixes into whatever I’m cooking much easier.
- 3 1/2 Cups All-purpose Flour
- 2Teaspoons Baking Soda
- 1 Teaspoon Baking powder
- 3 Teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 1 Teaspoon salt
- 3 Cups White Sugar
- 1 Cup Vegetable Oil
- 15 Ounces Pumpkin
- 1/2 Cup Water
- 4 Eggs
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2) Grease bread pan with shortening or lard. Depending on what’s handy
3) Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Then combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and mix them in. This allows the dry ingredients to mix completely in the batter and you won’t end up with unexpected clumps of spice/baking powder/baking soda. If you have ever bitten into baking soda or powder you know just how horrible it can be.
4) Split the batter between two bread pans and bake at 350 Degrees for 60 to 70 minutes. You will need to stick a toothpick down into the center and if it’s clean when you remove it, let it cool off before tasting. The cooking time with vary a little depending on how much moister is in the pumpkin.