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From giant pumpkins that can weigh hundreds of pounds to tiny miniature pumpkins that fit neatly in the palm of a child’s hand, there’s a pumpkin for just about every need, taste, and desire. Give pumpkins especially the larger ones, plenty of space to sprawl. There’s a reason they call it a pumpkin patch — these autumn treasures need room and sprawl several feet out in all directions. Traditional orange jack-o-lantern pumpkins are fun for carving, but also try other-colored pumpkins, from white to buff, blue-green, and scarlet. Different varieties, to some degree, control the size of pumpkins. But for the very largest pumpkins, be sure to provide a constant supply of moisture, sunshine, and fertilizer.
Leave pumpkins on the vine until the skin turns the appropriate color for the variety and the rind feels hard when pressed with your thumbnail. Harvest before a hard frost by cutting the stem from the vine with a sharp knife, leaving a 2-inch stub on the fruit. Place the harvested pumpkins at 80° to 85°F for two weeks to cure them. For longer-term storage, place them in a dark location at 50° to 55°F.
Pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking. Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves, and even the flowers. In the United States and Canada, pumpkin is a popular Halloween and Thanksgiving staple. Pumpkin purée is sometimes prepared and frozen for later use. When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, baked, steamed, or roasted. In its native North America, it is a very important, traditional part of the autumn harvest, eaten mashed and making its way into soups and purees. Often, it is made into pie, various kinds of which are a traditional staple of the Canadian and American Thanksgiving holidays. In Canada, Mexico, the United States, Europe, and China, the seeds are often roasted and eaten as a snack.