Lee Valley & Veritas

 Gardening Newsletter
  Volume 8, Issue 10 - October 2013    
Not Your Average Pumpkins
On May 15th of this year, I did something I never before thought I'd do. Something I never even considered doing. I walked out my back door, locked it and drove to a remote location with cash money in my pocket. That money was part of a deal that I'd been working on for some weeks. It would be handed over under an old apple tree in exchange for a single, small key.

That small key would eventually open the gate to Narnia.

After three weeks, 14 e-mail exchanges, two phone calls, and one very small wad of cash, I was the proud renter of a community garden plot!

It's the kind of thing only an overly enthusiastic gardener could get so worked up about. I am such a gardener. In fact, I don't know which was more exciting, getting the keys to the community garden or passing the bar exam. Since I never really took the bar exam, I'm going with THE COMMUNITY GARDEN!

I had to rent the plot because of the paste-tomato plants I had started from seed without giving much thought to where I was going to plant them. When I was starting those seeds last March, growing just three of them seemed kind of anticlimactic after all the work I had put into saving the seeds. Not even worth the cost of the grow lights, really. So I planted a version of three. I planted 30.

Did I mention I have room for only three plants? Hence the need for the community garden plot. So now that the great tomato growing summer has come to a close with five bushels of pressed tomatoes in the cupboards, it's time to think about whether to keep the plot.

YES. YES, I'M GOING TO KEEP THE PLOT! And the main reason is my latest obsession … pumpkins.

I've always had a slight problem with having more affection for squash than I probably should, but this year it's branched into an unnatural love of pumpkins as well. And a community plot is the perfect place to grow things that a) take up a LOT of space and b) don't take constant daily attention. Pumpkins it is!

Lest you think there's only one type of pumpkin out there (the big, round orange kind), allow me to illuminate starting with the Lumina.

Lumina pumpkin
This pumpkin is white on the outside, which makes it fun, but what makes it especially fun is that it's orange on the inside! It's great for eating too.

Then there are the Knucklehead pumpkins.

Knucklehead pumpkins
I LOVE these two pumpkins. To me Halloween is all about the "creep factor", and nothing says creepy like anything covered in warts.

If you're after something a little prettier, then my absolute favorite is the Porcelain Doll pumpkin.

Photo by Karen Bertelsen
It's a pink, hybrid pumpkin that was bred specifically for breast cancer fundraising. In North America, 25¢ from the sale of each pumpkin goes towards breast cancer research, and certain seed sellers will donate 50¢ for each seed packet sold. As a bonus, it makes a great cooking pumpkin too.

If you're looking for a more classic orange colored pumpkin with a unique shape, look for the Cinderella pumpkin ...

Cinderella pumpkin
... or the Orange Hubbard squash ...
Orange Hubbard squash
... or the Amber Cup squash, which has a multicolored, striated skin.
Amber Cup squash
All three are interesting looking and all, like most of the other varieties, are edible.

My personal taste for both decorating and eating leans toward the blue varieties. The Blue Hubbard squash is among my favorites because it has such a great shape. (Beware though: you may need a hacksaw to cut it open for eating.)

Blue Hubbard squash
The aptly named Australian Blue pumpkin is another favorite.
Australian Blue pumpkin
Also known as the Queensland Blue, this pumpkin has a very distinct blue color and can have an unusual turban shape.

All of these varieties were found at local grocery stores and farmers' markets, so they can be hunted down. Of course you can also hit the big world of Google and find sources where you can buy their seeds.

I already have my list for the community garden ready for next year and it includes the Porcelain Doll, the Marina di Chioggia (not pictured), the Musquee de Provence (not pictured) and the Grey Ghost squash (not pictured). All have superior flavor and ornamental qualities, and all take up a lot of space. And since having a lot of space to grow these is the key, it's a good thing I have a key … to a lot of space!

Karen Bertelsen

Karen Bertelsen is a Gemini Award nominated television host who has appeared on some of Canada's major networks including HGTV, W Network, Slice and MuchMoreMusic. Three years ago she started the blog The Art of Doing Stuff (www.theartofdoingstuff.com) as a creative outlet for her writing and endless home projects. The Art of Doing Stuff now receives over half a million views per month and has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens, Style at Home and Canadian Gardening magazines.

Photos by Lee Valley staff (unless otherwise specified)

Editor's Note: Thank you to Nancy at Miller's Farm, Market & Garden Centre for her help.

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