The pumpkin is inextricably linked to October, though there is far more to this squash than a mere canvas for a Halloween jack-o’-lantern. Its nutrient-rich flesh is a delicious ingredient for pies, soups and raviolis, while its seeds can be eaten as a tasty snack.
Of the hundreds of pumpkin cultivars available to growers, chefs tend to favour the sweet and meaty ‘Musquée de Provence’, which has dark brown skin and very pronounced curves, while those who opt for ‘Sweet Dumpling’ appreciate its white and green colouring and distinctive parsnip-like taste.
Other varieties worth trying are ‘Hooligan’, with its orange stripes and the red-skinned ‘Rouge Vif d’Etampes’.
Pumpkins are heavy feeders and grow best in soils that have been improved with manures and compost to provide plenty of nutrients. They also benefit from regular feeds of high potash fertilisers. Sow seeds in the ground in a sunny spot after the danger of frosts has passed, or start them in pots under cover a few weeks earlier. Make sure to water pumpkins regularly during the growing season, in order to ensure that liquid is aimed at their roots rather the neck of the plant to avoid rotting.
Harvest fruits before the first frosts and store in a cool, dry place.