The Fruit Hill Farm Guide to Organic Pumpkins - Growing, Storing, Eating and everything else you need to know!
What’s not to like about pumpkin. Easy to grow, fantastic colour, store well, very versatile in the kitchen, very nutritious, edible seeds and can even be used as a Halloween decoration! That’s a lot of plus points.
How to grow Organic Pumpkins
- Sow organic seeds in mid April in medium sized pots in good quality organic compost. They like a bit of heat to germinate so either put them in the hot-press or in a heated propagator.
- As soon as they have germinated move them into a warm sunny spot in the polytunnel/glasshouse. Protect from frost.
- The plants will grow quickly – keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t dry out.
- When all danger of frost has passed in May transplant to the great outdoors.
- Pumpkins should be spaced a metre apart each way in a sunny spot of the garden. They like fertile soil - you can either use compost, well rotted manure or a NPK fertilizer when you are preparing the soil.
- You can plant the pumpkins in bare soil but you will have the problem of weeds. It is a better idea to plant them through mulch –sheep wool or ground cover are both good for this.
- The nights can be a bit nippy in May so it is a good idea to protect the young plants with a cover. Take the cover off when the plants start to flower to allow the pollinators in.
- Occasional potash liquid feed would be much appreciated.
- Harvest in October before there is a frost. Frosted pumpkin will not store.
- When fruits develop a tough skin, ring hollow when lightly tapped, and have a deep, rich colour, they should be ripe.
- When harvesting fruit, take off as much stalk as possible, using secateurs, as rot starts from that end. Be careful not to use the stalk as a handle as this can cause further damage to fruit.
- Once removed from the plant, the fruits should be allowed to ‘cure’ outdoors in the sunlight for about ten days. Make sure fruits do not touch each other.
- Pumpkins and winter squashes can then be stored in a well-ventilated position at a temperature under 15°C - but no colder than about 8°C
- Depending on the cultivar and conditions provided in storage, fruits should keep for up to six months
Pests and Diseases to watch for when growing Pumpkins
Powdery Mildew - This is a white powdery deposit over the leaf surface. Leaves become stunted and shrivel. Powdery mildew is normally a result of the plants being water stressed so make sure you keep the soil moist at all times.
No fruit or fruit rotting when very small - This is not a pest or disease but is due to poor weather conditions. If the weather in early summer is cool there will be inadequate pollination. This is usually a temporary problem and once the weather starts to improve, so will pollination. You can try to hand-pollinate plants yourself by removing a male flower (no swelling at their base) and brushing the central parts against the centre of a female flower (female flowers have a swelling at the base – this is the beginning of the fruit). Also make sure you have taken any protective cover off so that the bees can get in.
Slugs – If the weather is poor in early summer then the slow growing plants can be a magnet for slugs that will eat the growing shots and damage flowers. Always worth having a look under leaves. Our wool mulch is very good for repelling slugs. You can also use a molluscicide.
Nutritional Value of Pumpkins
Pumpkin is a highly nutrient-dense food. It is rich in vitamins and minerals but low in calories.
- Pumpkin are a great source of beta-carotene - a powerful antioxidant. This is what gives orange vegetables and fruits their vibrant colour. The body converts any ingested beta-carotene into vitamin Consuming foods rich in beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer, offer protection against asthma and heart disease, and delay aging and body degeneration.
- Pumpkins are also a source of fibre.
- Eating pumpkin is good for the heart. The fibre, potassium, and vitamin C content in pumpkin all support heart health.
- Pumpkin pulp and seeds are high in both vitamin C and beta-carotene. These offer a boost to the immune system using a powerful combination of nutrients.
- A portion of pumpkin will give you more than 200% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A, 19% of the RDA of vitamin C and 10% or more of the RDA of vitamin E.
- That same portion will also give you at least 5% of your daily thiamine intake as well as B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, niacin, iron, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium, copper, manganese and phosphorus!
How to peel Pumpkins
To peel or not to peel? - well its up to you but the smaller ones generally have thinner skins and don't need peeling - just cut off the warty bits!
This is like carrot cake, but with pumpkin.
- 300g self-raising flour
- 300g light muscovado sugar
- 3 tsp mixed spice
- 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 175g sultanas
- 4 eggs - beaten
- 200g butter - melted
- zest 1 orange
- 1 tbsp orange juice
- 500g (peeled weight) pumpkin or butternut squash flesh, grated.
Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Butter and line a 30 x 20cm baking or small roasting tin. Put the flour, sugar, spice, bicarbonate of soda, sultanas and salt into a large bowl and stir to combine. Beat the eggs into the melted butter, stir in the orange zest and juice, then mix with the dry ingredients till combined. Stir in the pumpkin. Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 30 mins, or until golden and springy to the touch. You can decorate with cream cheese icing if you wish but it is lovely on its own. Perfect for you little monsters at Halloween!
Soup is a great way of using your pumpkin and this is a great late autumn warming Pumpkin soup recipe from The Happy Pear.
When preparing your pumpkins - don't forget about the seeds - they are packed full of goodness and easy to prepare! Pumpkin seeds contain iron, as well as potassium, phosphorus, zinc and magnesium. They can be eaten raw or roasted - to roast them simply clean them and put on an oiled oven tray or baking sheet into the oven at approx 180C / gas 4 for 10-20 minutes - until golden and crisp. You can add your favourite spices for flavour or eat as they are!
GROWING PUMPKINS - ESSENTIALS FROM OUR ONLINE SHOP