Monday, September 22, 2008

Pumpkins Shmumpkins!

As I might have vented before, one of the frustrations for pumpkin lovers in Italy - by which I mean lovers of roasted pumpkin, pumpkin with rich flavour, firm flesh and a decent sugar content, at least enough to caramelise the pumpkin in the roasting pan - is that Italian pumpkins, on the whole, are watery, soft-fleshed things, prone to turning to mush in the oven.

So one does the only sensible thing. One grows the real thing. One imports from Australia seeds for the Kent pumpkin, one of the truly fine roasting varieties.

One plants three vines. Two, to ensure pollination, and a third for luck.

What one doesn't expect, and what pisses one off immensely, is that the three vines should produce a grand total of one female flower over the course of the summer. Of course pumpkins need a male flower and a female flower and an inquisitive insect to orchestrate what might delicately be called pumpkin rumpy-pumpy.

A zillion male flowers on their own are useless. Except for stuffing with goats cheese and herbs, dipping in a light batter, deep-frying and eating, but that's grist for another blog-post mill.

Here are the vines:

Miles of vines, zillions of male flowers.

And here's the end result of their summer of travail:

One female flower that produced one single, solitary pumpkin.

Enough to make one spit chips.

Or even pumpkin seeds.


Diane said...

Any theories as to why only one female flower and tons of male? Does it have to do with growing conditions? We grew a total of one pumpkin this year too, though we had another two split on the vine while growing...

The Gardener said...

No, there are no certain theories. It's always typical for male flowers to appear before female flowers and not only on pumpkins.

Over-fertilising, particularly with nitrogen-based fertilisers, will lead to lots of vine growth and leaves and a shortage of flowers of all kinds. But that's the case with tomatoes, too.

I did read somewhere that female flowers tend to appear on side branches from the main vines. The suggestion was to nip out the growing tips of the main vines at about three or four metres to encourage side branches. I'll try it next summer.