Pumpkins, Gourds and Squash

For the past month the pumpkin farms near and far are in full swing! Carnival rides, petting zoos, haunted houses, apple cider and homemade fudge … fall fun at its best! The many different varieties of pumpkins – miniature, white and striped, to name a few – are quite different from what I remember growing up. We would shop for our one pumpkin (maybe two) and the family would make an event of carving the design and roasting the seeds. In recent years, I have enjoyed painting designs on the pumpkins and have expanded my designs to include a few gourds. This year I approached the pumpkin farm differently.

This time around, I was looking for unique pumpkins to grow next year in the garden, and I found a few.

I also became quite fascinated with gourds and more so now that I actually have some drying.

The drying time differs with each individual gourd based on the size and thickness of the skin. I did end up with one swan gourd from my own garden and also purchased two others along with apple gourds, a huge bushel gourd and a handful of miniature ornamental gourds. I have several books on the subject of gourds and after the drying takes place, they have to be cleaned and made ready to work into pieces of art; in my case it will be a bowl or vase. As I patiently wait for them to dry, I am brushing up on my painting skills so I can apply some impressive techniques. The American Gourd Society has chapters in most states and membership along with a wealth of information about gourds and creating artwork and functional pieces. Another organization, Decorative Painters, is dedicated to painting skills and teaching techniques.

Luffa, also known as the sponge gourd, is not a true gourd. It is currently in the final stages of drying on the vines in the garden from earlier this year.

I had quite a successful crop last summer and made luffa soap for Christmas gifts and will do the same this year, since I am receiving requests for it already! Once the luffa skin dries, it can be peeled away to reveal the sponge within. The seeds are removed and the sponge is washed, dried and cut into pieces to work with.

As for squash in my gardens, zucchini has always been a regular member producing plenty to keep my mind searching for new and interesting recipes! Zucchini is a summer squash and another that did very well in the garden this past season was yellow scallop squash.

The summer squash has a thinner skin and can be eaten raw, whereas, winter squash has a much harder skin and should be baked or steamed in the microwave. Winter squash lasts longer than summer squash and can keep up to several months in a cool cellar to be eaten all winter long. Discovering new varieties of winter squash is presently occupying my time as I browse around for gourds and pumpkins. So far delicata squash is my favorite and I made sure to purchase enough to cook up and take to our Thanksgiving dinner so the whole family can experience a new and different dish!

Sweet mama buttercup was the chosen squash to try this weekend along with butternut.

We did pick up three more types, and those that I really enjoy I will be saving the seed and growing next year. Delicata is definitely a winner!

Pumpkins, gourds and squash need a large space of the garden to grow. Some varieties grow in a bush manner, but most develop vines, and the vines can reach many feet in length. A trellis or some type of support is recommended for those that don’t become too heavy as they grow. Regular watering and a watchful eye for pests is about all that is needed to grow a successful crop.

Published on Oct 24, 2008

Grit Magazine

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