Tasty Nutritious Pumpkins

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All are native to South and Central America. Most of our pumpkins and squashes originated in Mexico and Central America. Pumpkins were a big part of Native American agriculture when the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth. The natives shared them with the new arrivals and soon became a big part of their diet and agriculture. Native American Indians used pumpkin as a staple in their diets centuries before the pilgrims landed. They also dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats. Indians would also roast long strips of pumpkin on the open fire and eat them. When white settlers arrived, they saw the pumpkins grown by the Indians and pumpkin soon became a staple in their diets

. As today, early settlers used them in a wide variety of recipes from desserts to stews and soups. The origin of pumpkin pie is thought to have occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and then filled it with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in the hot ashes of a dying fire.

Growing From Seed

Although this may not be the most popular vegetable to grow or eat it is certainly one of the most nutritious and  interesting.  This vining plant requires very little care. Give it lots of space and it will run around your garden flowering abundantly. It certainly is a fun plant to grow and is a good vegetable for kids to grow.  Pumpkin is a hot weather loving plant. Depending on where you live you can get as many crops as the weather allows.

When planting in your garden start with 2-3 seeds on a raised hill and thin to the healthiest plants. If you start the seeds indoors just place those sprouted plants on the hill. Remove the weakest of the plants to give the others more room. As the plant grows and flowers and the little pumpkins appear thin the fruit to the best two or three per vine. This will make the others remaining bigger and better. Placing mulch around the seedlings will give them a better chance to retain moisture which is very important in this stage of growth.

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Care and Maintenance

Water is important especially in the early stages of growth. As the plant matures they will need less water. They are a very good choice for growing in very dry climates. They are one of the best warm weather plants and thrive as do others in the melon family in the driest of conditions. If there is chance of frost you can use straw or cardboard for protection .
They need fertilizer as do most other plants. The amount of fertilizer depends on the quality of your garden soil. You can find articles on improving your garden soil on www.gardeningdirections.com

Pests and Diseases

Pest and disease can be a problem but not beyond your control to take care of. Bugs are  a problem because the cucumber beetle is a carrier of plant disease, which leads to..... Powdery Mildew, a white powder-like bacteria. Powdery mildew thrives in hot, humid weather, in the middle to late summer, just as your pumpkin is really getting big. It spreads rapidly and will quickly destroy the plant.

 Bacterial Wilt is a disease  that becomes evident by a wilting and browning of the leaves. This can sometimes be confused early on with wilting due to lack of water

. The best test for bacterial wilt is to take one leaf and cut it an inch or so from the vine. If the sap that drains out is yellow and stringy, your pumpkins have this disease. The only thing to do is to remove the diseased plant, because there is no known cure for this disease.

Do not compost these diseased plants. Remove from the property. The main reasons that these two problems occur is when the plants are too moist and this gives the mildew and wilt the perfect conditions for growth. Water only in the early morning or during the day. Do not water late in the evening or at night. This will help to ensure a healthy crop.

Harvesting and Storage

Leaving the fruit on the plant for as long as possible is the best way for it to mature and ripen. When the stem cracks and the skin is very tough, the fruit is ready to be picked. Some pumpkins may take as much or more than 120 days, depending on the variety. Pumpkins can be stored for quite a long time and retain all their qualities. Four to six months is not unusual providing it is kept in a cool, dry and well ventilated space.
See more and learn more at www.gardeningdirections.com.

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