I have a friend, let’s call him Pumpkin Pete. His great ambition is to win the prize in the local flower show for the largest pumpkin.
Every year he is disappointed because his great rival, Papa Pumpkin, always produces the bigger one. Papa Pumpkin has a strong claim to growing the larger pumpkin because he has been a professional gardener for 50 years. He has learned all the gardening tricks over the years. Every year his pumpkin tips the scales a few kilos heavier than Pete’s.
They are the only two contestants in this competition. The villagers all wait with excitement to see if the usual winner will be toppled.
Forming a Plan
After losing again last year, Pete immediately began to plan for this year. He discovered a Canadian supplier of pumpkin seeds produced in a secret valley on the west slopes of the Canadian Rockies.
They are seeds of Curcubita maxima var. Atlantic Giant. At £2 per seed, Pete does not want to waste any.
By the time the seeds have flown over Canada, Greenland and landed in Luton, Pete has his plot prepared. He has found a source of manure, bought in some phosphate fertiliser for early growth and has pots filled with the best potting compost.
It is rumoured that Papa Pumpkin has a secret source of horse manure. He owns a horse and feeds it curry so there is a plentiful supply of fertiliser.
The precious seeds are planted in April and, once established, the seedlings are planted out in the prepared plot. Beside each plant is a watering hole so that water gets down to the roots.
As the plant grow, fertiliser is applied according to some mysterious formula known only to the planter. Soon the male and female flowers can be distinguished and pollination is assisted by a small camel hair brush.
By now the most vigorous plant has been identified. It is given room, any shading vegetation is removed, it is protected from winds and heavy rain. Even if it means getting up in the night, the plant must not be damaged by heavy rain or hail.
The hard work and ritual are paying off. Pumpkins are growing fast. One is selected as the best and the others removed along with any remaining flowers. The leaves must be in full sun. As Pete is hoping for a 50 Kg pumpkin each of the 100 or so leaves must produce enough carbohydrate and sugars between May and August.
Some pumpkins grow up to 15 Kg a day but not in Hampshire. It must be supported off the earth as dampness will damage it. It must be protected from slugs and maybe from rival growers. Not that Papa Pumpkin would dream of damaging his rivals plant. After all he has won 14 of the last 15 competitions.
The strict regime of water, fertilise and protect continues throughout August. The pumpkin must be kept growing. If it stops, it will not start again. There can be no holidays, no days off, no weekends away. It needs as much care as a new-born baby.
The day before the flower show the pumpkin is cut and lifted in a blanket into the boot of Pete’s 4×4. This year Pete has to get someone to help him. He thinks that is a good omen. At the village hall it is weighed and set up on display. At 56 Kg Pete is proud. His heaviest yet by a long way but what will Papa Pumpkin bring.
Papa turned up with a sack over his shoulder. “Hi Papa, if you can carry it yourself it’s too small.” Pete was joyous.
The Winner Takes It All
And so Pumpkin Pete, deserving of his title, won the villagers’ accolades for the bigger pumpkin. His pride knew no bounds. He accepted his First Prize Certificate from the lady president and also received a garden centre voucher to the value of £1.50.
Now, what was that about the minimum wage?
The largest pumpkins recorded are one of 911 Kg in the USA and 953.3 Kg in Switzerland.
Large pumpkins are not good to eat but the smaller ones are traditionally used for pumpkin pie and served at Thanksgiving (Second Sunday in October in Canada.) It is greatly over-rated in my opinion.
Pumpkins are 95% water and contain vitamin A and some vitamin C. There is plenty of fibre and not much carbohydrate.
Pumpkins are used as cattle fodder.
Pumpkins are hollowed out to make jack-o-lanterns for Hallowe’en. A practice that first began in Ireland where turnips were used. The light placed inside is to ward off evil spirits. The practice was first recorded in USA in 1866.
The Curcubit family includes gourds, cucumber, water melons, courgettes, marrows and loofahs as well as pumpkins.
Its use in folk medicine is as an anti-helminthic. Don’t look up that word until after supper, (It is for intestinal worms)
Here is a story of a competition with really large pumpkins
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