Crop of the month: Pumpkin

As a counterpoint to my ‘Trees’ series at the New Moon, here’s the first of my ‘Crops’ series. It seems apt to celebrate harvest at the Full Moon. You can see other posts in this series by following my ‘harvest’ tag. This month, I’m ten days late for the Full Moon but pumpkins and other cucurbits are still in season here in Britain.

Until a decade or two ago, many people in Britain weren’t familiar with pumpkins, winter squashes, gourds or whatever you prefer to call the autumn-harvested cucurbits. These crops have gained popularity here with changes in fashion towards local food and home grown food. Now the greengrocers’ shelves are full of seasonal produce and allotments are sought after.

Cucurbits are members of the genus Cucurbita, in the family Cucurbitacae. Here in Britain our autumn-harvested cucurbits include pumpkins and winter squash, and butternut squash.

As 2012 turns towards autumn we see pricey pumpkins. Times have been hard for growers. The summer has been cool and very wet. But the Horticultural Trades Association says that the industry looks towards improvement.

As Bertrand Russell said, ‘Every time I talk to a savant I feel quite sure that happiness is no longer a possibility. Yet when I talk with my gardener, I’m convinced of the opposite.’

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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3 Responses to Crop of the month: Pumpkin

  1. EqFe says:

    It’s the time of year when one takes younger children to a local pumpkin patch to choose their Holloween pumpkin. For the most part pumpkins are grown to be carved into Jack O lanterns. With the exception of some small to medium, dense “sugar: pumkins they aren’t meant to be eaten. American’s love pumpking pies, although commercial ones are usually made from winter squash, most often Butternut. I tend to grow butternut (the Walham Butternut hybrid which is squarsh borer resistent) and accorn. They are a good size for family consumption, and store well.
    This year, the squash borers were intense, and they killed most of my zuchini and all of my acorn squash plants.

  2. argylesock says:

    Do you mean this? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squash_vine_borer Now you mention it I’m not aware of any pests attacking cucurbits over here. Maybe we benefit from growing these alien species.

    Temperature and sunlight challenge British growers more. It’s still quite unusual to see locally grown cucurbits for sale, but that’s changing with improved varieties such as Crown Prince.

    Are there a lot of commercial growers of cucurbits Stateside? I’ve heard that people buy tinned (‘canned’) puree to make pumpkin pies. Me, I’ve eaten pumpkin pie only once. I thought I’d try a real one when I was in Maryland but I found it pretty dull. The local food was great in some ways (crab cakes) but I wouldn’t bother eating pumpkin pie again.

    The pumpkin-carving tradition (bigger over there than here, I think) must rely on growers who I suppose are doing it commercially. That tradition is getting more popular here as the American style of Hallowe’en grows in popularity.

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