Squash (pumpkin type): Jack O Lantern Cucurbita maxima
Always popular at Halloween, pumpkins are fun to grow in the garden if you have enough room. They are vigorous trailing plants and take up quite a bit of space. The larger varieties need a long growing season and are great for competitions and carving. Smaller types are more practical in the kitchen.
Jack O Lantern is the perfect Halloween pumpkin and also a great all-rounder. The medium-sized, golden fruits take about 120 days to mature and weigh in at 3-5 kg. They will store well too.
How to grow: Grow in the miscellaneous section of your rotation. Sow seeds in large modules or 8cm pots in April and May. Harden off and plant into the growing site after all danger of frost has passed. Plant at a distance of at least 90cm. Keep watered if the weather is dry after planting. The vines are vigorous with large leaves. Yellow trumpet flowers appear and the pollination between male and female flowers is done by bees and other insects. Allow only a few pumpkins to mature per plant and cut off any over-vigorous trailing stems beyond the forming fruits. In late summer raise the fruits onto a brick or large stone if you can to aid ripening and avoid rotting. Harvest pumpkins when ready from October to November and before the first frosts. Pests and diseases: Pumpkins are easy to grow and we find they do not suffer from many pests and diseases. Slugs can be problem at planting out and you may have to protect the young plants with environmentally friendly slug protection. How to cook: Pumpkin puree is the main ingredient in pumpkin pie and can also be used in cakes. Pumpkin also makes a good soup. Make an easy soup using 1.2 kg pumpkin, 1 onion chopped, 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed, 1 litre of vegetable stock, cut the pumpkin into thick slices and remove the skin and seeds. Put all the ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Then simmer until the pumpkin is cooked. Cool and rub through a sieve or liquidise. Reheat and season with salt and pepper and add more stock, water, cream or milk as liked. Make variations by adding different herbs, parsley and thyme. Or make it spicy by adding some chilli.
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