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When I was a child pumpkins were alien and exotic. I read about them in the Peanuts cartoon, in which Linus spent long nights in the pumpkin patch at Halloween, waiting in vain for ‘The Great Pumpkin’. It never came.
As the American version of Halloween has gradually insinuated itself into our lives, the carved pumpkin lantern has become much more widespread. I have carved pumpkins for my children, and it’s a tough job. Pumpkin flesh is too hard for a spoon, and not quite solid enough for a chisel or power tools. However, pumpkins do make a very satisfactory glowing lantern.
I prefer to eat pumpkins, though. I don’t like pumpkin pie, which is a sweet and sickly item with the texture of polyfilla, only just improved by the application of lots of cream. But I love pumpkin curry, pumpkin soup or even just mashed pumpkin with bacon.
We grow three varieties. The first is a big orange number called ‘Vif d’Etampes’. It keeps well into the winter, but once cut we have to eat it for at least a week. The second is a small variety called ‘Uchiki Kuri’ that matures earlier than ‘Vif d’Etampes’.
The third pumpkin variety we grow, ‘Marina di Chioggia’, was bred near Venice. This one tastes the best. It is green, knobbly and quite frankly not as attractive as the others. It has thick skin, but tastes delicious.
The secret to growing pumpkins is to start them in a deep hole with lots of organic matter (it is good to grow them directly on a compost heap, for example). They need lots of water. Ours also need protecting from moorhens, but I doubt that this is a very widespread problem.
So, this Halloween, remember a pumpkin is not just for carving into scary faces, but tastes delicious too.
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