Picking a pumpkin is one of the joys of childhood. In autumn pumpkins are ubiquitous at grocery stores, garden centers, and farmers markets. The most fun place is the pumpkin patch where children can see the fruit as part of the life cycle of a living vine.
Within the life cycle of the seasons in a garden the pumpkin goes full circle. Seeds sown in spring produce a flowering vine throughout the summer. Fruits harvested in autumn become decorations, food for wildlife and humans, residence for rodents, and seeds for snacks and next year’s garden. Winter remnants of the plant become organic nutrients in soil supporting seeds sown in spring.
Pumpkins prompt possibilities which link generations together in the family circle. The simple act of picking a pumpkin can spread into a lifetime of happy memories.
Making pumpkin puree is a fun and easy family afternoon activity. Puree is used for pie, bread, pudding, muffins, mousse, flan, soup, stew, and soufflé.
- Wash and quarter a small pie pumpkin.
- Remove loose fibers and seeds by hand.
- Clean seeds with running water in a sieve and dry on paper towels for future use.
- Wrap each quarter in microwave plastic before placing in the microwave for 5-8minutes or until the pulp is soft.
- Cool wedges before removing pulp from shell.
- Puree pulp in blender. Use immediately or freeze for up to 6 months.
- Shuttle the pumpkin shell to the compost pile.
Save some seeds for next year’s pumpkin patch. Apportion the rest for snacks and craft projects.
To prepare roasted pumpkin seeds coat seeds with vegetable oil and a dash of salt. Spread the mix on a cookie sheet and bake at 250ºF for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Dry or roasted nuts are delicious solo or added to cereal, trail mix, salads, and muffins.
Seed crafts include necklaces, tambourines, collages, mosaics, seed bags, and paintings.
To make a seed tambourine, fill an aluminum pie pan with dried pumpkin seeds. Cover with an empty pan. Staple the rims of the pans so the seeds cannot fall out. Staple colorful ribbons to the edges of the pans and decorate the surface with stickers. Children can summon family to the holiday table with pumpkin seed tambourines and create rhythmical dances with siblings, parents, pets, and grandparents.
Pumpkin seed bags are bean bags with pumpkin seeds instead of beans. They make safe soft catchables for young children and for arthritic hands of grandparents. Add catnip to one bag to engross the family cat.
The Family Pumpkin Patch
Saving pumpkin seeds provides the incentive to start next year’s family pumpkin patch.
Bring the family together to draft drawings for next year’s patch. Distribute sheets of drawing paper and colored pencils to each participant. After each has sketched a rough plan, convene to agree on a master plan.
Pumpkins grow in full sun in a loam or sandy soil with a pH of 6-7.5. Obtain a pH test of your soil in fall for next year’s garden. Ideal growing temperatures for pumpkins are between 65º and 75º. Germination to harvest takes from 90-120 days. Pumpkins are 90 percent water and require adequate space to grow and plenty of water and nutrients.
To grow larger pumpkins remove all but a few fruits from each vine. To challenge the world record of 1,140 pounds, remove all but one fruit per vine.
At harvest time invite friends and neighbors to pumpkin weigh-in and number of seeds guessing games.