Living France - - Au Jardin -

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.

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