P1020137Pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo) can be grown in Scotland if you have a reasonably sheltered garden and the summer is not a complete washout!

My favourite recipe, which is also very child friendly, is pumpkin soup.

Chop up and sauté in a large pan a selection of ‘stock’ vegetables such as onion, celery, carrot and garlic.

Peel and remove the seeds from a medium sized pumpkin or squash chop it up and add it to the pan.

Cover the vegetables generously with hot vegetable stock add a couple of bay leaves. At this point I also add a couple of tablespoons of red lentils but this is not essential.

Bring to the boil and simmer. Add more water or stock if you think the mixture is becoming too thick.

When everything is tender remove the bay leaves and blend the soup until it is smooth.

Serve with crusty bread.

How to grow pumpkins

Pumpkins grow best in a sunny, sheltered spot. The soil should be rich in organic matter so dig in plenty of well-rotted compost or manure. Alternatively, they can be planted in the top of an old compost heap.

Sow the seeds individually into pots in late April/early May and place on a windowsill or a frost free greenhouse or polytunnel.

Once the plants have grown a few leaves and the danger of frosts has past (usually early June) it is time to plant them out. They will need to be ‘hardened off’ first. This means gradually acclimatising the plants to outdoor conditions. Place the pots outside for progressively longer periods of time. After one or two weeks the plants should be ready to plant out.

Give the plants plenty of space usually about 1m apart (check the seed packet).

Water the plants well as they grow.

Once the plants are established and they are pollinated they will start to develop lots of fruit. To allow the pumpkins to grow to a reasonable size remove some of the fruit. It is best to allow only 3 or 4 pumpkins to develop on each plant.

Place flat stones underneath the developing pumpkins to keep them off the ground. This helps to prevent rot.

Leave the pumpkins to develop for as long as the plant is healthy and there is no risk of frost. Hopefully a couple of weeks of autumn sunshine will harden the skins, as this helps to preserve the pumpkins.

If bad weather threatens cut the pumpkins from the stem and place them on a sunny windowsill until the skins have fully hardened. Then they can be stored in a cool dark place until you are ready to eat them.


Pumpkins curing at Brunswick Organic Nursery, York