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Oily Rag column: Smashing pumpkins

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Fuseworks Media
Oily Rag column: Smashing pumpkins

By Frank and Muriel Newman

Gardening off the smell of an oily rag should not just be about practical edibles like cabbage, cauli’s and carrots. For fun - giant fun - in the garden, why not try your hand at growing giant pumpkins!

After months of care and attention, tons and tons of manure shovelling, and anxious glances at the weather, giant pumpkin growers from around the country have been weighting in this year’s harvest to see who takes out the ‘Biggest in Show’ title. This year’s whopper was weighed in on the 7th of April at the Hamilton gardens festival. A giant grown by Tim Harris tipped the scales at 577 kg, smashing his last year’s winning entry of 290 kg.

Although the 577 kg pumpkin is a giant, it is still a lightweight compared to the 721 kg whopper grown a couple of years back by the Barton family from Parua Bay (Whangarei). According to the Guinness Book of Records, the world record for the heaviest pumpkin is 824 kg, grown by a Canadian couple from Ontario. That record was set in October 2011.

Every giant pumpkin grower seems to have their own secret to success that is as prized as the formula for Coke, but generally giant pumpkins like what most plants like: sunshine, water, cow manure, fish emulsion, seaweed, and the occasional hug.

All of this takes a bit of planning, so now is the time to learn a little more and get your site ready for a spring planting. To learn more, a good place to start is an everything-you-need-to-know website specifically about giant pumpkins, called www.giantpumkin.co.nz. Sam is the man behind the site, which is very well done and worth a visit, even just out of curiosity.

Sam does a great job at explaining what you need to get started - from what seeds to buy, where to buy them, to how to feed the pumpkins and so on. And he updates his site with news and photos from the many pumpkin growing competitions around the country.

What a great fun way, we thought, to get the family involved in the garden - after all, you will need all the willing helpers you can get to lift your giants at harvest time!

The big question is can you eat a giant pumpkin? Well, yes. Sam says they taste a little like rock melon, but not quite as good. Anyway, it’s probably fair to say that that for the kitchen you are better off growing the regular garden variety, so you should plan to use the giant pumpkin to feed the family pig or house cow. If you grow a whopper you will be able to sell the seeds - there are heaps of giant pumpkin seeds for sale online. Imagine what the seeds from the world’s largest pumpkin would be worth? Now that’s an idea - let’s turn NZ into the world’s largest giant pumpkin patch and boost export dollars by selling pumpkin seeds to the world! We can just see it now, giant pumpkins where sheep and cattle once roamed!

There are lots of ways to cook regular pumpkin - in fact as many ways to cook pumpkin as there are to cook shrimps! There’s "Pumpkin soup, pumpkin jam, pumpkin scones, pumpkin pie, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cream, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin chutney, pumpkin croquettes, pumpkin curry, pumpkin kebabs, pumpkin marmalade, pumpkin fritters, pumpkin bread, pumpkin wine, pumpkin salad, baked pumpkin, crumbed pumpkin, pan fried pumpkin, deep fried pumpkin, stir-fried pumpkin, pickled pumpkin, BBQ pumpkin …" and that’s about it!

And freezing it is no problem either. GP writes, "Pumpkins freeze well. Cut into meal sized pieces, clean the pulp from the centres and freeze in plastic bags. Do not thaw before using. Straight into the water or roasting dish for cooking. Alternatively, pulp the pumpkins - freeze in ice cream containers, and use for soup or jam as time permits."

If you have a favourite pumpkin recipe, why not send it in to us so that we can share it with others on the oily rag website at www.oilyrag.co.nz or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

-Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at www.oilyrag.co.nz. The book is available from bookstores and online at www.oilyrag.co.nz.

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