Pumpkin in the garden
Pumpkins, courgettes, melons, watermelons, cucumbers, many names to indicate the fruits of the cucurbita, a plant of American origin, immediately imported by the Spanish conquistadores in Europe, which is now cultivated practically all over the world. Pumpkin and courgette are actually fruits of the same plant, we could consider the courgettes as gourds still harvested "unripe". There are dozens of species, genera and varieties, given the great success of these vegetables in the kitchen of the whole world; while the courgettes are harvested throughout the late spring and summer, in autumn the pumpkins are harvested, which in practice are huge courgettes, with a thick and leathery skin, which preserves them throughout the winter.
There are dozens of varieties of pumpkins also in Italian gardens, where, depending on the area, there are particular pumpkins: large and reddish, with a turban, elongated, dark green.
The shapes are many, but the vegetable is always the same, belonging to the genus Cucurbita.
Grow the pumpkin
Pumpkins are easily cultivated vegetables, which in addition offer the advantage of not needing great care to be preserved, it is sufficient to keep the whole pumpkins in a cool, well-ventilated, dry place, and we can consume them throughout the winter, after cooking.
They are generous plants, which provide a great production, without requiring great cultivation treatments.
As with any other vegetable, the starting point is the plot, which must be well worked, enriching it with manure, and removing all infested grasses; we choose a beautiful flowerbed exposed to the sun and where it is possible to water easily.
Pumpkins can be sown directly at home, preparing small postarellas in late spring, in which we will place 2-3 seeds; the plants are prostrate and produce long twining stems, with large oval or palmate, rough leaves. For each plant it is necessary to have about one square meter of space, even a little less.
If we wish to plant particular pumpkins we can preserve the seeds from one year with the other, or look for seeds, or young plants already developed, that are easy to find in a garden center provided.
The cultivation continues from late spring until late summer, with continuous removal of weeds, and also with regular and constant watering, always waiting for the soil to dry between one watering and another.
Drought often causes excessively hard and leathery fruits, while excessive watering sometimes leads to fruits with poorly flavored or not very sweet pulp, so regular and abundant watering is essential to obtain an abundant and tasty harvest.
Sometimes it is convenient to trim the plant when it has produced 2-3 fruits, to promote its development and prevent it from continuing to bloom and produce new fruits.
Towards the end of summer the foliage begins to turn yellow and the stem of the fruit tends to wrinkle, a decrease in watering often promotes a sweeter and tastier fruit pulp.
Once harvested, the pumpkins are left to dry in the sun for a few days, then they are placed in a cool and dry place.
The three sisters
Pumpkins are plants originating in Central and South America; the ancient inhabitants of these regions considered the pumpkins to be one of the three sisters, the other two sisters are climbing beans and corn. In the same field they planted corn, which served as a guardian for climbing bean plants, with pumpkins and courgettes to do the bottom, so as to avoid overgrowth of weeds.
In fact it was an economical and ecological way to grow plants that can then be easily preserved even for a long time.
As everyone knows, beans live in symbiosis with small bacteria that grow on their roots, these bacteria fix nitrogen in the air and make it available to the plant; the cultivation of the three sisters also self-fertilize; once again the wisdom of our forefathers teaches us many things.
La Zucca: Jack-'O-lantern
Many believe that the custom of carving pumpkins to use them as human-style lanterns is American, in reality it is an Irish and British tradition, so once turnips and beets were used, which were carved and then illuminated with small wax candles.
The Irish emigrated to America modified the tradition by using pumpkins, which in America were decidedly more abundant than in Europe, and much more cheap than turnips.
The use of lanterns for Halloween night is linked to many Anglo-Saxon legends, in each of which it tells of a damned who deceives the devil and is cast out of hell, being a sinner not even accepted in heaven, and he is therefore condemned to wander in search of a place to rest: the lanterns signal to these lost souls that our houses are not a place for them and therefore must stay away from them; at Halloween, in fact, in the Anglo-Saxon countries it is customary to decorate the doors and windows of houses with lanterns made with pumpkins.