The gardeners’ reward when autumn is rearing its head, is the harvest of squash, in other words, the cucurbits, the pumpkin family. It adorns our vegetable gardens and reminds us of the tales of our childhood. In the garden running stems of the cucurbits play hide and seek and reserve a real surprise during the last mow of our lawns. They came from America in Europe in the luggage of the explorers.
By the way, how does one recognise a cucurbita pepo from a cucurbita maxima? Specialists will tell you it is a question of peduncle or stem of the fruit. The pepo, is more decorative, and its flesh more stringy while the flesh of the maxima is softer and sweeter. In other words, the pepo is more pleasing to the eyes while the maxima enchants the taste buds.
Yes, but … since Cinderella, pumpkins have multiplied thanks to their astonishing genetic variability. Some are part of the cucurbita pepo or garden squash like zucchinis while others are part of the cucurbita maxima. There are over a thousand varieties. And our heads spin when it comes to choosing one. Between the gigantic green squash from Peru, the exquisite Butternut, the pilgrim squash with its slender silhouette, the exotic Shishigatani squash, the Corsican flat squash, the large Galeuse d’Eysinesor Musquée de Provence, the incredible Trompe d’Albenga, or the Turkish Turban, also called the Giraumont. Which one to choose?
And how do we cultivate them? As soon as the frosts end, rather in May than in April in Paris region, one has to sow on a rich, well-composted ground. If the seedlings have not been nibbled by the slugs, they will then grow happily on well-watered soil. But the most delicate part remains the fertilization of the female flowers, recognizable by their swollen base. Sometimes the passage of bees is not enough. A brush in order to fertilize manually like they do in China will be necessary.
Cinderella didn’t lose out by the change; a beautiful pumpkin is well worth a coach, even if we cannot make a soup out of it. At least, one could keep the seeds to make a beautiful garden.