|Pumpkin is a source of abundant food. This is the female flower of the pumpkin.|
Our family loves pumpkin season. Each year, we harvest dozens of beautiful big pumpkin fruits from our permaculture garden. But why wait for that moment when the fruit is ripe - there is so much more to a pumpkin plant than just the fruit, and more of the fruit itself can be used.
If you have wondrously creeping pumpkin vine why not give these ideas a go:
1. Eat the pumpkin leavesImmediately you have so so much more food growing in your garden!
Young leaves are a great dark leafy green. Use them in anything you would add silverbeet to. The prickles disappear in heat within in a minute or so.
I also steam lightly and them in use them as a wonderful gluten free wrap. Lay out a leaf, add some rice or quinoa, vegetables, then wrap it up and then dip in satay sauce or plain tamari. Yummm!
|Edible pumpkin leaves - the young ones are nice, even when they are large like this. I leave the crusty old ones.|
2. Eat the pumpkin shootsThe growing tips of pumpkin vines are excellent in a stir fry. I even toss them into soup, quiche, anything really that needs greens. Taking the tips of the vines is a great way to stop the vine taking over your garden.
|Edible pumpkin shoots|
3. Eat the pumpkin flowersPumpkin flowers are delicious - one of the many edible flowers in my garden. I like to add the pumkin flower to salads or a stir-fry. You could batter and fry them, but I prefer to keep things as simple as fresh as I can. Typically it's a good idea to harvest the male flowers since the female flower is where the pumpkin develops.
Pumpkin flowers are a delicacy - typically too delicate to find in the stores. You really need harvest them from your own garden or community garden plot.
|Female pumpkin flower - you can tell because it has the baby pumpkin at the base of the flower.|
|Female pumpkin flower also has this clasp inside.|
|Eat mostly the male pumpkin flowers - found at the end of a long stalk.|
|Inside the male pumpkin flower is the single stamen - quite different from the female flower above.|
4. Eat the pumpkin seedsScoop out the seeds and heat them them on a hot plate until they are crispy (I use my sandwich press - takes only a couple of minutes). Add a splash of tamari - mmmm!
5. Eat the pumpkin skinI love pumpkin skin on roast pumpkin, but also toss it into my pumpkin soup (the softer skins). Actually you can just chop the whole pumpkin up for soup - seeds, skin and all.
|Pumpkin skin is edible and adds a lovely nutty flavour.|
6. Pumpkin vines create shadeIn the hot months, I encourage the self-seeding the pumpkin vines to grow up and over our chicken enclosure to provide shade. The pumpkins die back letting the sun in during cooler months.
|The pumpkin vines create great shade for the chickens.|
7. Make mulch from pumpkin vinesIf the tendrils start taking over and you simply cannot eat that many shoots or leaves, then chop them back and use them as mulch. Great too for a chop and drop mulch under fruit trees, or adding to a compost.
|Great handfuls of pumpkin vines rot down to a great mulch in the food forest garden. Here I interplanted with cranberry spinach and sweet potato (both grown for their edible leaves).|
After all the pumpkin abundance has finished, I like to leave a couple of the fully ripe (possibly overripe) pumpkins in the garden. These provide the source of next year's crop. The pumpkin fruit is naturally designed to nourish the seeds for new growth - so just let it rot down and it provides the perfect soil environment. Next season, if your pumpkins come up where you don't want them, transplant them early.