I wrote a version of this article in April of this year. A time when many of us who grow our own fruit and veg are sowing our pumpkin and squash seeds for the season ahead.
Well, Halloween has arrived and I feel it necessary to write on this issue again.
Research by Uniliver and environmental charity Hubbub revealed the total number of pumpkins discarded at Halloween in 2016 was a shameful 15 million. In light of Halloween’s rising popularity in the UK, I have to assume this level of waste is consistent this year, if not more. It will happen again in the next few days.
A third of those wasted pumpkins were dumped directly into landfill sites rather than recycled in food bins or compost heaps.
One tragic result of this practice is the significant environmental harm. Five million pumpkins rotting in landfill produces methane and contributes to the production of greenhouse gases.
Britain wasted enough pumpkin in 2016 to make a bowl of soup for everyone in the country.
However, this careless behaviour is more distasteful against a backdrop of food poverty faced by 8.4 million people in the UK – that’s equivalent to the population of London struggling to put food on the table for their families.
Part of the problem is the business practice of the supermarkets. Wander into any one of them in the week leading up to Halloween and you will see huge containers stacked with large orange pumpkins (probably grown abroad) and at the dirt cheap price of two for £3.
The issue isn’t helped by the quality of pumpkins the supermarkets sell. Mostly these pumpkins are inedible to start with, yet they fail to stock the huge variety of very edible, flavourful and versatile pumpkins and squash, many of which can be grown and are in season now, here in the UK.
The other part of the problem is the public’s perception of pumpkin. In contrast to America, whose obsession with the orange flesh of the native gourd is lining the pockets of food industry executives and farmers, the British public is not so taken. In the same research referenced, half of the adults asked did not consider pumpkin as food.
When a festival is as popular as Halloween has become and when a food product is the most popular symbol of the event, it is such a missed opportunity to allow this waste to continue and not use that popularity to engage the public in the potential the pumpkin has in dishes to lay upon dinner tables and fill the bellies of the population across the UK in celebration.
Turks Turban, Old Boer White and Honey Bear.
If you want some fantastic ideas for turning edible pumpkins into delicious meals, why not start with this post from Matt over on Grow Like Grandad: 30 pumpkin and squash recipes – from savoury dishes to desserts
Why grow your own pumpkins?
Clearly, growing your own pumpkins is certainly something I’m going to promote. It is so rewarding and great fun to grow them with children. I know I bang on about it, but as with all grow your own crops, the key benefit is variety. Many are beautiful and some, bloomin’ gruesome if you want to keep with the Halloween theme.
Importantly, there is a wide selection with fantastic flavour. If you want some inspiration, check out Beryl’s guest post on Gardens, weeds and words.
Tanya over on Lovely Greens, also wrote a great post: The 10 Best Pumpkins to grow for Eating.
The pumpkins from our plot have really caused a stir amongst family and friends this year. It demonstrated to me that people don’t realise the variety of colour, shape and size of pumpkins available.
The Old Boer White has been a firm favourite. I was surprised how prolific this heritage South African variety was and it just looks incredible. I’ll happily grow this pumpkin again.
How to grow pumpkins
Unless you’re trying to grow a giant, I’d argue the perfect time to get pumpkin and squash seeds sown is mid-late April. It is then the spring is well underway and the longer daylight hours and warming temperatures provide a positive contributing factor to successful germination and continuing growth.
Pumpkins will not tolerate cold weather and by sowing in April, the last frost dates will be just around the corner for many of us and one barrier to successful pumpkin growing is removed. There’s still plenty of time for them to mature too.
If you don’t have an allotment or a large garden, you can still join in the fun. If you choose the right variety, you can grow vertically in pots.
I’d love to hear about the pumpkins and squash you’ve grown this year. Drop me a comment below with some favourite varieties.
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