Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Pumpkins fattening up nicely

.Despite the crappy summer (or maybe because of the crappy summer?) my pumpkins are really thriving
In Margaret's shop, just over the off licence door there is a funny little painting of an American farm house and a field full of ripening pumpkins. Every time we sit down for a chat my eyes are drawn to it. I cant help help myself! My only cure will be one day when I have a field full of pumpkins ripening in the late autumn sun, just like in the picture. In the meantime I have to settle for growing 10-13 plants every year scattered throughout my raised beds, creating havoc as they race towards each other obliterating pathways, knocking over other plants and causing mayhem along the way. In one way it wouldn't be August without the garden going to shit-courtesy of the pumpkin plants.

tear dropped shaped uchiki kuri squash
One thing I do love about gardening is how different things are from year to year. Very often that means brilliant successes one year are unmitigated disasters the next, and vice versa. Last year I was awash with french beans, this year I only harvested a handful. Last year the pumpkin crop set very few fruit and very late in the season (you remember the cold weather we had in mid summer? that's the reason why). This year (so far and without wishing to tempt fate) the pumpkin plants are really thriving. They set fruit in July, haven't wanted for rain since and are now prolific, fat and happy. Even the baby pumpkins being picked off by slugs cannot diminish the excellent sized crop already established. In fact the only complaint is the smell-rotting pumpkins are not the sweetest scent in the world, so finish whats on your plate slugs, before moving on to the next one.

Buttercup Squash, sweet nutty, floury and very tasty!

I had a good chat with Tanguy about growing pumpkins in Ireland since this is one of my pet projects and has been a little obsession of mine since I began my own garden. I suppose pumpkins are not something that we grew at home, they are a little mysterious and exotic to me, facts only confirmed by the sheer range of sizes, colours and types available to grow.They are also impossible to buy (discounting the tasteless "jack o lantern's" sold around Halloween for the sole purpose of carving-and fit for little else in my opinion). The yellow one fattening up in the first picture is one that I have had no success with last year and one that I am really keen to get to full size. It's often nicknamed the "Cinderella Pumpkin" but its real name is  ‘Rouge Vif d’Etampes’. Apparently in the world of pumpkins it's a real looker- so good looking some people don't like to cut it, despite it's tastiness! You will find it listed as an Heirloom variety, meaning that it was commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but it is not used in modern large-scale agriculture. Many heirloom vegetables have kept their traits through open pollination. Apparently its was the most commonly found Pumpkin in the French markets in the 1800's.

Pumpkins take over pathways
Funnily enough Tanguy is convinced that it's pointless to try and grow french varieties here as the climate won't allow them to reach their full maturity and sadly, from my own experience up to now I have to agree. So my success this year with rouge vif may be a fluke.Each year I like to try out different varieties but no matter what varieties I try I do always grow smaller varieties that do well no matter what the weather (like the Japanese Hokkaido's and uchiki kuris). One French pumpkin that he did suggest we try was "petit marron" a small knobbly orange pumpkin with a good flavour. I have also had pretty decent success with the "Queensland Blue Pumpkin", and Kerry who I gave seeds to tells me they get better every year. So don't be dis-heartened if someone more experienced tells you not to bother with something, go ahead and try it out anyway. Have a backup plan and don't depend on it being a success, that way you cant go wrong! If you are getting into the form to look for unusual seeds for next year here are a few places to look for pumpkin seeds;

www.realseeds.co.uk lovely selection but expensive postage for outside the UK, might be good for Jude and co in Yorkshire
www.irishseedsavers.ie if you want to try out the Australian/Queensland blue pumpkin
www.heirloomseeds.com brilliant U.S. site with a wow selection but as it only ships to its own united states you need a yank to post on orders to you.( Brothers in Boston are handy for this) They also have a brilliant sister site for heirloom tomato seeds.But again only if you have an American to help you!
www.seedsavers.org U.S site that will ship to Ireland and the rest of the world, airmail about 3 dollars depending on the size of the order. It has the most beautiful selection of squashes and pumpkins from all over the world.

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