2010-10-21 / News

Save your mums and pumpkins

The Island Garden
By Roger Marshall

If you’ve been to your local vegetable market lately you’ll have noticed that there are pumpkins and chrysanthemums everywhere. In fact, you’ve probably already bought some.

But what do you do with the pumpkins after Halloween and what happens when the chrysanthemums get hit by frost? Many people will simply toss them out. The savvy gardener knows that pumpkins make delicious pie, soup and pumpkin bread that can be enjoyed long after the orange globe has gone.

However, the best pumpkins for pies, breads and soups are not the ones you see in stores right now. The ones in stores are most likely Connecticut field pumpkins grown especially for Halloween. The best tasting pumpkins that I have found for pies, bread and squash are two French varieties Rouge Vif D’etamps, and Jaune Gros de Paris. Both are much redder than field pumpkins and both are easy to grow. You can get their seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds. com).

Of course, if you don’t have field grown pumpkins to make into bread or soup you can use butternut squash. Most of the canned vegetables labeled as pumpkin is in fact butternut squash because it cans better than pumpkins, which can turn mushy.

The first step is to chop your pumpkin into pieces and steam them until they are cooked. You can also boil them, but boiling tends to make them a little mushy. When the chunks are cooked puree them in a food processor. The puree can then be cooked slowly to thicken it or frozen as is. If you freeze it without thickening it, cut down on the liquids in your bread or pie to enhance the flavor and thickness. I freeze the puree in square quart containers for use at any time of the year.

There are several delicious recipes for pumpkin pie. One of the simplest is to use a quart of your puree, which makes two pies, half a dozen eggs, mixed with up to a cup of heavy or light cream. If the puree is too runny use less cream. Add up to a cup of dark brown sugar to sweeten the mixture. This will turn it a dark color. If you don’t like the dark color, use a slightly lesser amount of granulated sugar or mix the two sugars. You can also use half a cup of honey instead of a cup of sugar. Add up to a half teaspoon of spices such as ginger, allspice, a dash of cloves and cinnamon or adjust the spices to your taste. Whip the batter together and pour it into two premade pie crusts. Pumpkin pies are not difficult to make and can be varied in many ways.

For your chrysanthemums, find a warm corner of the garden and plant them. Don’t wait too long or the plants can be damaged by the cold. They will take root provided you and will put up new shoots that will grow into next year’s chrysanthemums. All you have to do is to pinch the stems back early in the season to ensure the plants grow into nice round heads. If you don’t pinch them back, they’ll be a little more straggly, but they will still make a nice fall display.

You can propagate your mums in spring when the roots start to grow. Just cut off a section of root about four inches long and plant it into a four or six inch pot. Keep the pot fertilized and watered and as the plant grows, pinch back the stems to keep the plant bushy. Next fall you’ll have your own potted plants that can be planted into the garden to start the process all over again.

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