More than Pumpkin Pie!

It’s time to celebrate the humble Pumpkin – Happy Halloween! You may think of a bright, orange Pumpkin as little more than the traditional decoration for Halloween but think again: it is also an incredibly nutritious food which can be used in everything from soup and salads to desserts and pies.

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Pumpkins are low in calories and yet they are packed full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. You can eat the flesh from inside the pumpkin as well as the seeds, leaves and flowers, making it a vegetable which will more than cover the return you put in for growing it.

Try pumpkin in a soup with butternut squash for a warming Halloween treat. The flesh can also be cut into chunks and roasted or steamed and then used in salads or as a side vegetable. For using pumpkin seeds, scoop them out, wash them and set them aside to dry first. Then simply sprinkle the seeds with a little oil and salt and pepper if desired, and roast. You can then eat them as a snack or use them to garnish salads or soups.

If you fancy growing your own pumpkin next year, here are the top five things you need to know:

  • Pumpkins will be ready to harvest from around 12 to 20 weeks after sowing depending on the variety you choose so work backwards from Halloween to choose the right time to sow your seeds.
  • Pumpkins need a lot of sunshine and protection from high winds so it is best to choose a warm, sheltered spot in your garden for growing them.
  • You need to allow plenty of space for the pumpkins to grow as they grow along trailing vines. Alternatively, you could erect some from of trellis or sturdy support and train them to grow upwards rather than outwards.
  • Pumpkins need a lot of water to produce a good crop so do make sure to stay on top of regular watering.
  • Pumpkins are not hardy which means they won’t survive outdoors over the Winter. Be sure to pick your pumpkins before the first frosts of the Autumn.

Think about planting some pumpkins for next year: your children or grandchildren will love watching them grow before they carve them out and you will benefit from the super nutrition provided by the humble pumpkin.

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Once Halloween has passed and you’ve finished with your pumpkin carving, take it to the bottom of your garden and let the birds, hedgehogs and squirrels feed on it – they love pumpkin and you’ll be helping to feed your local wildlife.

N.B. I can take no credit for the carved pumpkins – all the work of my children!

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