Giant pumpkin

At this time of year, with Halloween just around the corner, the focus tends to be on how you can grow your own Halloween jack-o-lantern next year (although this year, apparently, we’re not faced with the pumpkin shortage we had last year, and the cool kids are carving Halloween pineapples anyway).

For those of you with the space and inclination to grow giant vegetables, you can take inspiration from the largest pumpkin grown outdoors in the UK, which was grown at RHS Hyde Hall in Essex, and weighed in at 605kg (1,333.8lb).

“The winning entrant was spawned from a seed taken from a 2,323lb (1,054kg) pumpkin grown in Switzerland in 2014 that holds the world record, according to the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth. The seed itself set a record when Ipswich-based seed company Thompson and Morgan paid £1,250 for it at an auction earlier this year.”

Smithsonian Magazine has also shared The Secret to Growing the World’s Largest Pumpkin, so you’re all set if you want to give it a go. But the one thing no one considers when discussing these monstrous berries* is whether they’re nice to eat.

*The fruits of all types of squash are modified berries called pepoes, according to the New World Encylopedia. And it gets even more exciting on the new word front, because it also says that a berry-bearing plant is referred to as bacciferous. Can you use that in a sentence this weekend? 😉

(Tendrils is wall-to-wall tangents this week, because I have also just discovered that Viburnum edule is known as the squashberry in Newfoundland, and that The Haida Indians considered these berries food for supernatural beings. They’d be difficult to carve for Halloween lanterns, though.)

Right, where was I…? Oh yes, eating pumpkins. Well the giant ones are OK, I suppose, but in terms of culinary delight I think mini pumpkins have got the edge, especially if you don’t have a large family that enjoys soup. The berries are so delightful that I’m considering changing my 2017 garden plan to incorporate a mini pumpkin plant – perhaps Jack Be Little from Victoriana Nursery Gardens, or the climbing Munchkin from Sarah Raven. The Physic Blogger has been talking about how to cook Baby Bear, alongside a Twitter campaign to remind people that #pumpkinsarefood.

A new study has found that every every kilogram of pumpkin (and any other vegetables) you grow yourself reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 2 kilograms, compared to buying veg from the shop. It’s not quite that simple, of course, and it wasn’t quite so complimentary about home composting compared to municipal efforts, but as telling the truth seems to be out of fashion at the moment, we’ll gloss over that last part 😉

On a worldwide scale, there’s stronger evidence that agroecology can feed the world and save the planet, now that we know that “the green revolution’s ‘quantum leap’ in cereal production has come at the price of soil degradation, salinisation of irrigated areas, over-extraction of groundwater and the build-up of pest resistance.”

Whilst we may not to be able to affect global agricultural policy on a short time scale, there are two things we can do to help the planet this week. The first is to ensure we eat the innards of our pumpkin, or whichever hapless fruit or vegetable we’re using for our Halloween lantern. The second, of course, is to resolve to grow our own next year 🙂

Happy weekend everybody! I hope it affords you some time out in the garden.