Friday, October 31, 2014


  It all started with enough seeds to fit in a self addressed stamped envelope.  He was a retiring gardener.  For forty years, he'd grown pumpkins, saving seed.  Now, on Craigslist, he was hoping to find other gardeners to grow the pumpkins, to enjoy what he'd enjoyed.  He'd propagated something good and he wanted to share. About 50 seeds came in the mail.  Just normal looking pumpkin seeds from the man in Woodleaf; we called them Cranford pumpkins after him.  We planted out about 25 seeds in the back field.  They grew vigorous from the start.  We rescued them once from Johnson grass and morning glory, but maybe they would have thrived anyway.  The vines crept out of their assigned space, hungry for sunlight and nutrients.  The leaves were wide, the vines thick.  It was impressive.  But it seemed like all we were growing for most of the summer was huge plants!  Then we watched as little green balls started to swell.  As the field was in the back, we didn't check it often.  But when we did it was fun to be startled, to peak under the leaf canopy and find growing pumpkins.  We started craving pumpkin pie in August.  And then some finally began to orange, to color with ripeness, readiness.  We harvested a truck load, realizing they were as heavy as they were big.  The market scales read 40 lbs over and over.  We stored them on our front porch, we look like the most fall festive house in the neighborhood.  But the real excitement came when we cut the first one open.  The cross section revealed 2-3 inch thick bright orange flesh.  Nora grabbed the seeds for roasted pumpkin seeds (I reminded her we can't cook them all or we won't have any pumpkins next year!)  I laid the two halves face down on cookie sheets and put them in the oven at 325.  It took more than a couple hours for the monster to start to collapse, the cookie sheet filling with water.  I dumped the water out and baked until the flesh felt soft.  I flipped the halves upward and couldn't resist tasting a a hot spoonful.  It reminded me of butternut squash. We've since been using it as a side dish at the table, simply seasoned with some salt and butter.  Pumpkin pie was expected though.  Three pies came out of the oven and was barely enough to feed the greedy family.  We've also made pumpkin bread and pumpkin pancakes.  But one can only eat so much pumpkin at a time, no matter how good.  So we've been preserving the pulp, freezing and canning, promises of pies yet to come.  Sadly, that same pickle worm that put an early end to our summer squash migrated next to the pumpkin patch.  Mighty monsters deflated out in the field before we realized the worms internal damage were rotting them from the inside.  So upon seeing the tell tale sign of little holes on some of the pumpkin's surface, we made good use of these doomed pumpkins.  Have you ever seen a pig go at a pumpkin?  Our hog is a happy pumpkin fed hog these days.  But most of the pumpkins are fine and ready for you to enjoy.  While they are beautiful to look at it, we highly recommend them for their culinary value as well.  Looking out at my porch these days, I'm humbled by what came of some seeds that showed up in the mail.  Less than an ounce of seeds grew to almost a ton of pumpkin!  Give thanks with us for the abundance of the season!

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