I didn't plan on planting pumpkins this year. Every year that I have, my harvest was less than successful. Either not enough water, too much water, bad soil, no pollination, powdery mildew, borers, you name it it's happened. So this year I noticed in our lasagna bed we'd been working on through the winter, little squash plants popping up everywhere. I had thrown some "Munchkin" pumpkins in the compost after the holidays and apparently their seeds thrived. I pulled out a dozen or more plants, but decided to keep a few to see what would happen. A couple of the plants started to show fruiting, but the fruit looked more like round yellow squashes than actual pumpkins. Mystery squash maybe? As they have started to mature, they are looking more pumpkin-like however so I inclined to believe they are some Mystery Pumpkin rather than just a regular yellow squash. The other plants started bearing fruit as well and they are in fact the dear little "Munchkins" I'd suspected. I was shocked that they bore fruit, and even more shocked that they look like we'll be more successful this year with these volunteers! I'm encouraged to plant some Jack-O-Lanterns as well, so will have to remember to get some seeds for those. Maybe my composted lasagna garden had just the right nutrients, attracted the right number of bees, fertilized just enough - I honestly don't know except that I did sprinkle bone meal around the base of the plants as they were flowering, so maybe that's what did it. I am not questioning it though because even if we get only a half dozen pumpkins out of the batch, that's 6 more than we've gotten in the past!! And the girls love having their very own pumpkin patch in miniature.
Some facts about pumpkins that I found while researching growing and harvesting them.
* Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A.
* Pumpkin flowers are edible.
* The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
* In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
* Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
* The largest pumpkin ever grown weighed 1,140 pounds.
* The Connecticut field variety is the traditional American pumpkin.
* Pumpkins are 90 percent water.
* Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply in the United States is available in October.
* Native Americans flattened strips of pumpkins, dried them and made mats.
* Native Americans called pumpkins "isqoutm squash."
* Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.
Additionally, pumpkins seeds and related plant seeds have been found in Mexco and date all the way back to 7000 to 5500 B.C. As for their presence in Halloween traditions:
The origin of Halloween dates back at least 3,000 years to the Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced "sow-ain"). The festival was held starting at sundown on October 31st and lasted until sundown on November 1st. It was similar to the modern practice of the New Years celebration. http://www.pumpkin-patch.com/about.html
On this magical night, glowing jack-o-lanterns, carved from turnips or gourds, were set on porches and in windows to welcome deceased loved ones, but also to act as protection against malevolent spirits. Burning lumps of coal were used inside as a source of light, later to be replaced by candles.
Samhain was not the name of a "Lord of the Dead", no historical evidence has ever been found to back this up, it was simply the name of the festival and meant "Summer's End". It was believed that the souls of the dead were closest to this world and was the best time to contact them to say good bye or ask for assistance. It was also a celebration of the harvest. It is still treated as such today by those who practice Wicca or other nature based religions. It has absolutely nothing to do with satan, who was a creation of the Christian church.
When European settlers, particularly the Irish, arrived in America they found the native pumpkin to be larger, easier to carve and seemed the perfect choice for jack-o-lanterns. Halloween didn't really catch on big in this country until the late 1800's and has been celebrated in many ways ever since!
So this year, dare I get my hopes up and plant the beloved Jack-O-Lanterns in hope that the girls can carve pumpkins they actually grew? Maybe I'll try some sugar pie pumpkins as well! I'm so encouraged by these volunteers, but don't want my hopes dashed. Maybe these lovely plants are just telling me to go for it and not think about it too much. Whatever I decide, I am very grateful to these guys for allowing us to be graced with their presence and enjoy the fruit they seem to be bearing.
If anyone knows what variety my mystery pumpkin is I'd be quite grateful!
Munchkins (Munchkin' Mini pumpkin with bright orange flesh and pleated shape. The flesh is deep orange with a lovely chestnutty flavour and soft, waxy texture. Lovely tiny seeds, which can be eaten whole):