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Blog archive: October 2011

Halloween, Thanksgiving and all things Pumpkin

Pound for pound, pumpkins are perhaps the easiest and most rewarding vegetable to grow… (or is it a fruit?!) And when you grow your own, the heirloom pumpkins now available as seeds are as varied as you could wish for.

The only thing that could be tricky is that these vines sprawl, so you need to give them plenty of space, either horizontal or vertical. And they love good fertile soil if given the choice, but will grow in any old dirt if that’s all that is there.

So, which organic heirloom pumpkin varieties did I plant in The Ranch at Live Oak‘s big vegetable garden in Malibu? Here they are:


So called for its white shell, but inside is sweet, orange flesh and big seeds that are great roasted.

French Cinderella

Pretty as a fairy princess carriage, and just as delicious. Its true name is Rouge Vif d’Etampes, but Cinderella totally works.


This is a BIG guy. If you thin the vine down to one fruit per plant, the pumpkins can get to 1 1/2 feet across, and 2 feet down. Although you can eat ANY kind of pumpkin, the Howden is generally grown as an ornamental carving variety. Make a face and light a candle…

Jack Be Little

This is a LITTLE guy. About 3 inches across and 2 inches down. In theory, it should grow well in a container, but in practice, I’ve had most luck with these planted in the ground, as containers have a greater tendency to dry out on hot days. If you’re successful, each vine can grow 4 or 5 little pumpkins that are great for individual dishes, table settings, and as Halloween costume accessories!

Musquée de Provence

With its delicate coating of musk, this pumpkin is perhaps the most magically nostalgic. Truly a beauty to behold, and fabulous for pie-making too.

Big Max

This variety is the classic enormous orange all-American Halloween pumpkin. But don’t be fooled into thinking it will produce huge fruit without being thinned! All pumpkin vines need you to select the one gourd for them to concentrate on, and once that’s done, the plant will put all of its nurturing into making that one chosen squash unfeasibly enormous and prime for baking, roasting, carving or using as a piece of furniture.

Young’s Beauty

These guys are substantial contenders for pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie recipes. They’re big enough to feed a family of any size, and will graciously double up as carvers before they hit the pot.

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