Shock! Horror! Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween

Pumpkins or winter squash if you will are a favourite of mine to grow on the allotment. With their huge canopies of leaves, sprawling vines reaching out for who knows where and their treasures of fruit hidden underneath.

They come in every shape, size and colour. I don’t think I could ever get tired growing these beauties. Watching first the female then the male flowers, noticing a small fruit behind the female flower slowly fattening up. Seeing them take on their shape and later on their distinct colours, leaving them on the vines for as long as possible to ripen up in the late Autumn sunshine. And finally picking them, counting the total haul, cutting them from the now withering vines, cleaning them up and storing them for winter use.

For an other wise busy gardener they are gems to grow, needing little or no attention after they have settled in. Planted in a rich mix of compost and manure, slightly raised so the plant doesn’t rot. Watering them in well, giving them a mulch to help the soil around them from drying out and then standing back and letting nature run its course.

Every year I grow a few tried and trusted squash and a couple that are new to me. They are all grown for eating and not for decoration, although that isn’t strictly true as I tend to keep them on the window sills over winter, we all seem fine with that arrangement.

What do I look for in squash to grow? Well tasty for starters, nice firm flesh, I prefer thin-walled and thick dense flesh varieties, good storers, and ones that frankly appeal to my eye. Growing Squash in the UK also means I have to look out for varieties that will grow to maturity and ripen quickly.

Crown Prince and Queensland Blue are ALWAYS grown, they tick all the above boxes. Little Gem Rolet’s are grown for eating young and cooking whole, Marina Di Choggia is grown for its looks, and it’s dry flesh is perfect for Gnocchi, Potimarron for its beauty and practicality of size, useful when there are only 2 of you, Rouge Vif D’Etamps is another favourite for winter eating and storage. After that it’s a free for all based on what seeds I have, what I’ve picked up in swaps, what I fancy and of course what space is left.

It’s a while yet before I sow squash seeds (indoors in mid April for planting out in late May) they need warmth and long days, and frost-free growing conditions. We are still eating them so for this blog I can still cook and write about them.

These photos are of Crown Prince, taken when just picked through to now. Yes we bought some squash with us to the Alps, well I couldn’t let all my non-hard work go to waste now could I ? I’ll be using this 2.5 kg beaut over the coming weeks in curries, lasagna, maybe a cake, definitely some Biscotti, and maybe even some soup… Nothing will go to waste as the seeds will be roasted with a bit of olive oil, some chilli flakes and sea-salt. I’ll post the recipes as we eat our way through the squash.

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56 comments

  • Great post! I adore taking photographs of pumpkins because of all the imperfections on their surface, they are so beautiful – you’ve taken some really great shots here.

  • I too am a Pumpkin lover! We still hae about 6 in store including a huge Butternut, the only one produced from 5 plants. They are so versatile in cooking, they can be used in everything from soups to cakes.

  • WOW! They seem so beautiful and you did a wonderful photographs… especially the one with the reflection, is amazing. Thank you dear Claire, with my love, nia

    • Thank you Nia, the table was made by my partner when he was at school and I love seeing the reflections and of course playing with the camera 🙂

  • Beautiful photos! I love the contrast between the light blue skin and deep orange flesh.

    I love winter squash too. Like you said, easy to grow and store. We just ate the last of our buttercup squashes – my favorite – a few weeks ago. I will be growing more plants this year, to hopefully last us through the winter.

    • Thanks, the colour of the flesh is very intense, a real deep orange. I haven’t tried buttercup squashes, so you have given me something new to try 🙂

  • These pictures are beautiful, Claire. I do wish I’d more room for a few other plants in my yard, squash being one of them. My neighbor plants them, they come through the fence onto my rose bed, and if a squash appears, I give it over to them. I think I need a better system!

    • Hi John, I’m not sure that system is very fair for you!! Have you thought of trying to grow them up a trellis, there are some varieties which do well grown like that. And thanks for the compliments on the photos 🙂

  • I like your statement, “non-hard work.” That does describe some gardening, doesn’t it? I love the photos and the depth of color in those beautiful pumpkins/squash. I just planted a few spring pumpkin seeds…for the first time! So I’m hoping I have success. You’ve inspired me that it is worth the “non-effort” and giving up such a wealth of space. Thank you! Debra

    • And now I’m interested to hear about your spring pumpkin seeds, and what they are like. space is always an issue isn’t it, mind you I do seem to manage to cram quite a few squash into a relatively small space 🙂

  • I look forward to seeing what you do with them, Claire. I am always thinking I’ll make squash gnocchi or ravioli, but I never do. Mostly, I make soup and sometimes muffins or bread, or just eat roasted pieces.

    • Roasted squash has to be one of my favourites – spinled with some salt, chilli flakes and rosemary. I think I may make the gnocchi as a treat but I need to locate my recipe first!!

  • Oh, I long for a garden.. you’ve got an excellent green thumb turning out perfect squash like these! I didn’t even know so many varieties existed, I love that ash colored crown prince, the inside’s color is such a contrast!

  • Boooo, I don’t have enough space in my garden to grow squash…:( I love the pitted surface of the ones in your photos, I find the smooth ones you get in the supermarket sometimes eerily too smooth, almost like they’re unnatural.

    • Oh know what you mean, some do have look a bit eery! At the last count there were gazillions of varieties out there, and some certainly do look like an alien species has landed 🙂

  • Claire Crown Prince is indeed a lovely pumpkin, it’s really got a wonderful colouring. Does it’s flesh taste similar to the plain old halloween pumpkin? Do they need a lot of sunshine? If not, I may just give it a try this year.

    • Hi Eva, I think the plain old halloween pumpkins aren’t great for eating, or at least the ones sold in the UK aren’t.
      Crown Prince does need a fiar bit of warmth and sunshine, it’s one of the bigger types I grow and to be honest you don’t get that many fruit per plant but I think they are worth the effort. If you have some space, and a nice sunny spot go for it! If not maybe some smaller types would be better or summer squash as they are really tasty too!

  • What a wonderful post. I love pumpkin… and love pumpkin pie too, which I discovered when I was on a trip to the states. Here in Israel it is unknown. But we do grow the fruit, and people eat it as a cooked vegetable. The pictures are so beautiful.

    • Thank you Shimon, I’ve only had pumpkin pie a couple of times, it seems there are countless recipes out there, and it also isn’t that common in the UK either, it seems (in my mind) a very American dish. And I’ve yet to try and make one for myself, maybe one day….
      And thanks for the compliment on the photos, I really appreciate the feedback

  • It’s a pity so few varieties are available in stores – even at the markets. A good reason to grow one’s own.

    • It seems to be getting better in the Uk, over the last few years I see more and more in the shops, it seems they are becoming more popular. But a big thumbs up to growing our own anyway 🙂

  • The squashes and melons are so heavy used to let vines spread on the ground. Put thin piece of plywood under them so they would not rot while growing.

    • That’s a great tip Carl, if I’ve run out of scraps of wood I use straw, lots of it so they are off the ground. I haven’t tried Melons, they are a bit tricky here in the UK, but I’d like to!

  • I wish I had a garden to grow my own vegetables.
    My parents have a little garden and I remember the process of watching a plant go from blooming to when the actual vegetables or fruits start to appear. It is so calming 🙂

    • Hi there, that’s a lovely memory, and I bet the fruit and veg tasted wonderful. You are so right about it being calming, it’s almost medadtitive, a bit of space and time for yourself and your thoughts, something we all need!

    • I’ve yet to roast them, they are still on a plate drying out and waiting for me to get round to putting the oven on. these seeds look like they will be good as they are large and nice and fat!

  • Beautiful photos, I wish we had more room to grow pumpkins! We grew golden nuggets this year and they’re nice, but not nearly as flavoursome as I would have liked. Pete won’t let me put in butternuts – he reckons they’d need a whole bed to themselves! 🙂

    • Thank you Celia, I really think the Australian pumpkins are my favourites in terms of taste and cooking. And tell Pete that the only answer to wanting to grow them is put another bed in 🙂

  • Oh how I wish there was enough room in our yard for a few sprawling pumpkin vines. Your different varieties of pumpkin are inspiring! I will be searching at the local Farmer’s Market instead of the seed catalog for my fall bounty.

  • What a perfect model of sculptural beauty. And on top of that, *edible*! Very Princely indeed, this squash. I can see the many attractions. I wonder if there’s enough room out by the back property line to grow some squashes here . . . ? 🙂

    • Ahhhh Princely indeed! I think no matter how little space I had to grow I would somehoe find a way to sneak a squash in, I love watching their vines trail and twist, and the pleasur eof peering unde rthe canopy to see if there are any fruit forming.

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