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Calabaza Calabaza Cada Quien A Su Casa: A Gardeners Journey with Pumpkins

My journey growing a pumpkin plant from seed.


My Journey as a Gardener


I've always loved plants, admiring their beauty up close. In the 7th or 8th grade I chose gardening as my extracurricular. The garden was run by my 7th grade home room teacher. Unfortunately while I was in the club we never got the opportunity to plant anything. It was a small empty lot that sat at the far left end of the school, with rows of flower beds filled with only dirt. It was used as extra storage space and needed lots of work. So, every time we met up during extracurricular activities, we would help clean up the place. Beyond that my memory is fuzzy. It was nice seeing the empty lot slowly come to life, I wish I would have stayed gardening, but we got the chance to explore other creative activities that the school offered, and I found those equally enjoyable.

I grew up visiting my grandmother's house often. In the front of her house was a tall plum tree, and every year we would pick the plums from the tree. She would shake the branches with a makeshift hook on a pole and I would run around trying to catch the ripe plums that would fall. After collecting our harvest, we would wash them and eat them on the front porch. My grandmother's front porch had a wide ledge at the end of the stairs. I would climb up on the ledge to eat the fruit while my grandmother sat on the stairs below.

A photo of me and my grandpa in the living room, celebrating a birthday
Grandmas House

My grandmother had many plants indoors, think old lady aesthetic, and the living room had lace curtains on the windows. In front of the windows was a large TV stand that fit those chunky dinosaur TV’s with a cubby below for your DVD and VHS player and a shelf above the TV for all the photos of your grandchildren. On and around the stand were various plants, and I would watch them everyday staring at their foliage on days I was bored out of my mind. One plant in particular wrapped around the tv stand and drooped down. It’s vine was long and its leaves were a dark green color. I later was able to identity it as a pothos plant. Years later my grandmother moved away, and I didn’t get to see her again till I got older, but she gave her pothos to my family and at first all was fine. Later the pothos began to drop its leaves and soon all we were left with was a single sad leaf with a node. My dad asked me to help him care for the plant since it meant a lot, and so I looked online for propagation tips. And before you know it the sad little pothos plant grew very large with lots of dark green foliage. It took time and patience, but the reward was great. You might be wondering what this has to do with pumpkins. You are here to learn about the delicious pumpkin flower recipes I tried. I just wanted to share my deep love for plants, and the joy I feel when I interact with them. All these events lead to where I am today. Today I successfully grew a pumpkin for the first time, and I am stoked to share the knowledge I have attained.

My grandmas pothos plant
Pothos Vine

Pumpkin Planting


Last Autumn I saved a few seeds from a store bought white pumpkin. I wasn't too sure of the variety, but it might have been a snowball pumpkin. We used it as decoration in the garden for a few weeks before bringing it back indoors to eat. I cooked the pumpkin since my little sister has never tried one before. I personally found it yummy, as I grew up eating calabaza in soups as a kid. The sweet and soft texture of the pumpkin pairs perfectly with the type of soup my grandmother would make. I also parted a few seeds for planting and the rest of the seeds for roasting, unfortunately most of them got lost but I managed to save a couple seeds so I could plant them for next year.

Summer came around and I remembered I had pumpkin seeds. I planted a few in nursery containers along with cucumbers and corn in a makeshift greenhouse. The late summer heat scorched many of the sprouts that got direct sunlight and I was left with only 2 pumpkin sprouts. I planted one in my yard and gave the other pumpkin sprout to a local gardener friend that grows plants at a nearby park. My pumpkin grew slowly at first, compared to the one I had given away. I later realized that the late summer heat was keeping all my plants dry, and not many of my sprouts survived. My garden is south facing, receiving the sun all day long. I failed to provide enough shade for my plants, so they were scorched by the sun. Through my failures I was able to learn alot about caring for my plants.


Pumpkin Plant Success


I was surprised that the pumpkin plant produced many flowers. At first, I was concerned because all of the flowers were male, and none were female. Seeing all these flowers spring up and die seemed like a waste to me. One day I came across a video talking about pumpkin flowers, or flor de calabaza as it is called in Spanish, and how they are edible. Flor de calabaza is used in many Mexican dishes and one of the typical ways of eating it is in a quesadilla. When I heard this, I knew I should try eating it myself! So, I made it my goal to try out different pumpkin flower dishes before the season is over and they stop producing. I also realized not only was the heat damaging my plants, but I also container garden and they needed watering more often than plants that are in the ground. Since my garden is a south facing it receives sun all day long with little to no shade. So I decided to modify my gardening so that the plants can thrive and not be scorched by the heat. I found these plastic tarps at Daiso that I added behind my netting which gave the plants some shade during the day. I also made some paper mulch using old broken books I had lying around, and I changed my watering schedule and maintenance routine so that the plants can be moist throughout the day. Not so long after I started getting female blooms, but my next hurdle was figuring out the right way to hand pollinate the pumpkins. After many failed attempts to properly pollinate the pumpkin plant, I was finally able to get one growing. What did I do differently? I took off the flower petal from the female flower and left the pistil exposed, which is the stem that has all the pollen at the tip. Next thing you know the bulb of the female flower swole up and it has begun to grow day by day. It brought me so much joy to see the pumpkin plant growing. Unfortunately, it looks like I might not get another chance this season to grow more. The plant is still green but isn't producing much. I plan to keep it thriving. The pumpkin plant I gave to my gardening friend grew large and healthy in her garden. Unfortunately, since it was a community garden many of the pumpkins were taken. So, she was able to set one pumpkin aside and share the harvest with me and my family. Next year I look forward to growing more types of squashes just to experiment.


Pumpkin Plant History and Interesting Facts


Flor de calabaza is the yellow flower blossom that blooms from most squash. You can pick the flowers from pumpkins, gourds and other squashes. Pumpkin blossoms are very nutritious, they are a great source of antioxidants, and they contain nutrients like fiber, copper, folate, and vitamin A. So, it doesn’t hurt to try out pumpkin flowers.

Cucurbita, which is the genus of this gourd family, is native to the Americas. Their fruit, seed, and flowers are edible. Cucurbita pepo is the oldest domesticated species, in Oaxaca, Mexico. The origins of Cucurbita Pepo is debated since it has also appeared in Missouri. Evidence from a cave in Oaxaca, Mexico shows that domestication of Cucurbita dates back to 8,000 years ago. Predating the maize and beans which are also plants included in the native Mesoamerican diet. These three plants make up The Three Sisters, which is a companion planting system that the indigenous peoples used and still use. It's believed that planting certain plants together helps them thrive and share nutrients, which in this case is squash, maize and beans. The Pumpkin fruit itself is very nutritious as well and has many health benefits.


Pumpkin Flower Recipes I've Tried.


The first recipe I tried was a quesadilla. I followed this recipe Quesadillas de Flor de Calabaza I found online. I thought it was really good. I substituted the handmade tortillas with flower tortilla, and the cheese with mozzarella. The downside is that the peppers overpowered the flavor and left the flowers tasting just like pepper. I still enjoyed it because I love peppers, but if you’re not a pepper fan just fry the blossoms alone. The good thing about the blossoms is that they seem to absorb flavors well. I ended up making quesadillas again the following week with just the flowers stir fried and it was good.

The second recipe I tried was actually egg in a hole. I added my own twist to it to include the flowers. Here’s the recipe I wrote, Pumpkin Flower Fried Egg Toast if you would like to follow along. This recipe was good and left me craving more. Since it was during breakfast time, I was able to just go out into the garden and harvest the fresh flowers. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The last and final recipe I got to enjoy was the Squash Blossom Soup. This took the most flowers, so I froze the ones I gathered and saved them in a freezer bag. Unfortunately, since the recipe used so many flowers, I wasn't able to try any more recipes. This soup was amazing, I made it using garden grown corn from the community garden, onions from my personal garden, and as an extra crunch I chopped up some celery leaves from the community garden and added it to the soup. This soup can be made from the vegetables growing in your garden! The soup was creamy and delicious, I ran out of pumpkin flowers to chop up and add to the soup, so I added the celery leaves instead. This inspired me to try making other creamy vegetable soups in the future. Next time when I have the chance, I'd love to try even more recipes that include pumpkin flower.


Refrences

  1. “Cucurbita Pepo.” Wikipedia, 27 Oct. 2023, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cucurbita_pepo. Accessed 4 Nov. 2023.

  2. ‌Aliseda, Andrea. “Pumpkins Are Known for a Ghoulish Grin and Delicious Taste. Their Origins Are Rooted in Mexican History.” Los Angeles Times, 20 Oct. 2023, www.latimes.com/delos/story/2023-10-20/pumpkin-origins-mexico-fall.

  3. ‌“Three Sisters (Agriculture) - Wikipedia.” En.m.wikipedia.org, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Sisters_(agriculture).

  4. ‌“Cucurbita.” Wikipedia, 14 Oct. 2023, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cucurbita. Accessed 4 Nov. 2023.


 

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this month's post. If you enjoyed this post, please give it a heart. Always, if you have any questions, you can email me. Don't forget to check out the recipe I wrote! Pumpkin Flower Fried Egg Toast


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