Growing Pumpkins

The benefits and joys of growing pumpkins, including best varieties, when and how to plant, how to harvest and store pumpkins, how to grow giant pumpkins, and favorite pumpkin recipes.

  • Growing pumpkins
    Like corn, tomatoes and potatoes, pumpkins are native to America and are thought to have been cultivated in Mexico and Central America as long as 5,000 years ago.

  • Growing pumpkins

MOTHER’s Kitchen Garden: Pumpkins are a vegetable of many virtues. Learn about growing pumpkins, harvesting pumpkins and a few of MOTHER’s staff favorite pumpkin recipes. 

Growing Pumpkins

A pumpkin isn’t always a pumpkin — sometimes it’s a squash. The huge Big Max, for example, is technically a squash but is often a winner in pumpkin contests, while the cushaw, resembling a crookneck, is actually a pumpkin. It’s no wonder it’s hard to distinguish between pumpkins and winter squash; varieties of both are found distributed among four species of the Cucurbita genus: C maxima, C. pepo, C. moshata and C. mixta . Pumpkins are generally more sensitive to frost than squash are and also to soaring summer temperatures. Because they tolerate semi-shade, they’re often planted in the corn patch — a good way to conserve premium garden space.

While lack of space may be the main reason gardeners bypass the pumpkin, many growers also feel that a few jack-o’-lanterns and pumpkin pies don’t justify the effort of raising this vegetable. What they haven’t caught on to is that the versatile pumpkin can be made into a generous assortment of delicious soups, breads, cakes, puddings, pickles, salads and main dishes. In addition, the protein-rich seeds are a nutritious and tasty snack and can be used as garnish for soups and salads. (In some parts of the world, pumpkin seeds are considered beneficial to the prostate and are eaten by men to increase sexual potency.) Pumpkin flowers are also edible. They can add color to salads or be dipped in batter and fried. (One of the largest collections of fresh pumpkin recipes can be found in Pumpkin Happy by Erik Knud-Hansen, a former crew member of the Clearwater, the Hudson River sloop dedicated to environmental causes. The booklet is available from The Clearwater, Poughkeepsie, NY, for $3.50 postpaid, and proceeds go to the Hudson River Sloop Restoration project.)

Like corn, tomatoes and potatoes, pumpkins are native to America and are thought to have been cultivated in Mexico and Central America as long as 5,000 years ago. They were a staple of the Indians in this country for several centuries before the Europeans arrived.

Choosing Which Pumpkins to Grow

It’s important to choose a pumpkin variety that will fit the size of your garden and suit your purposes as well when growing pumpkins. If, for example, space is limited, pick a compact bush variety, such as Cinderella, which matures in 95 days, produces 10-inch fruits (not much bigger than summer squash) and requires about 3 feet by 3 feet of space. Its only drawback is that it doesn’t seem to keep as well as vining types. Spirit, a semibush type good for both cooking and carving, requires a 4- to 5-foot growing circle and yields smooth, 10- to 15-pound fruits in approximately 100 days.

For the best eating, you can’t go wrong with the fine-grained, sweet meat of Small Sugar (100 days), which matures at 6 to 10 pounds and is just the right size for pie making. The slightly bigger Sweet Spookie (90 to 105 days) is another candidate for carving and cooking.

10/17/2014 10:53:03 AM

Thanks for the great pumpkin info--makes me want to get started on next year's garden already! A word of question or caution though--I've read in numerous places that if you are canning pumpkin or squash you should only do so in chunks, as mashed pumpkin or squash will not get hot enough in a home canner to be completely safe.

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