It’s time for our Halloween blog and it’s a big one.
Now who said Halloween and pumpkin crafts had to be tacky? Yes, there is a whole world out there of serious pumpkin carving fanatics.
And some who may covet there prized pumpkins a little too much…
but let’s take a look at some designer pumpkins and the more ‘tasteful’ approach to Halloween decorations and festivities.
Not dazzled yet?
How about these then?
Now a further popular pumpkin myth is that pumpkin pie is unpleasant or tasteless. Well we beg to differ...
If you follow the domestic goddess of the USA – Martha Stewart’s tried & tested recipe you will be a pumpkin pie convert, we guarantee it.
You’ll find the recipe at the end of this blog.
Now that you have carved and embellished your oh-so-stylish gourd, and have savoured the delights of pumpkin pie how about growing your own for next year?
And we don’t mean gargantuan ones…
but rather some nice, modest varieties that will provide you with tasty treats next October. Baby Bear is best for pumpkin pie, Rouge VIF D’Estampes’ if you want the classic Cinderella shaped pumpkin, Jack of all trades for cooking and carving and Hundredweight if you do want a big boy.
These are great for children to grow and contrary to popular belief it’s all rather easy.
Follow these instructions provided by the RHS.
Seeds can be sown in pots from April to June. Fill a 7.5cm (3in) pot with compost, place a seed in on its side 2.5cm (1in) deep and cover.
Label, water and place on a windowsill or in a propagator. When roots begin to show though the bottom of the pot transfer into a 12.5cm (5in) pot.
Once seedlings have established, plant outside spacing them 2-3m (6-10ft) apart. Seeds can also be sown from late May to early summer directly into the ground.
Choose a sunny, sheltered spot and improve the soil before planting by digging in well-rotted manure or compost. Sow two seeds on their side 2.5cm (1in) deep.
Once the seedlings have germinated, remove the weakest one.
Looking after plants
Protect seedlings with mulch and feed with general fertiliser or tomato plant food, watering regularly though the growing season.
If you're growing larger varieties use wire as a guide to train shoots as they grow. Remove some fruits before they develop, leaving two or three fruits on the plant. This will encourage the plant to put its energy into producing larger fruit.
As the fruits get bigger raise them up onto a piece of wood or brick to protect them from rotting. Remove any leaves shading the fruit as it needs maximum light to ripen.
If there's a risk of an early frost protect the fruit with cardboard and straw.
Harvesting and storage
Leave the fruit on the plant for as long as possible to mature and ripen. When the stem cracks and the skin is very tough, the fruit is ready to be picked.
Cut fruit off with a long stalk before the first frost. Pumpkins can be stored between four to six months.
Expose the pumpkin to sunlight outside for ten days or keep indoors at 27-32ºC (81-90ºF) for four days to harden.
Keep your pumpkin stored in a well-ventilated place at about 10ºC degrees (50ºF).
Now that the Great British Bake Off is over we have all been turning our hands to some pumpkin creations for our very own Great British Face off.
Let the Pumpkin Wars begin...
(not one of ours)
How did we fair?
And lastly as we are getting into the spooky spirit of Halloween, here are some of our creepy garden finds this week…
...not really, but these are -
found in a courtyard in Oxford, under the patio, and then this in a remote village as we were planting...
Which brings us nicely on to Martha Stewart’s Pumpkin Pie recipe...
1 sugar pumpkin (about 4 pounds) halved or 3 cups solid-pack canned pumpkin.
All-purpose flour, for work surfaces. 7 Large eggs. 1-tablespoon heavy cream. 1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar. 2-tablespoon cornflour. 1-teaspoon salt. 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon and ground ginger. 1-teaspoon pure vanilla extract. ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg. 3 cups evaporated milk. Whipped cream for serving.
Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. If using fresh pumpkin, roast pumpkin, cut sides down, on a rimmed baking sheet until soft, 50-60 minutes. Let cool completely. Roasted pumpkin can be refrigerated in an airtight container overnight.
Reserve ¼ of the dough for making leaf decorations. Turn out the remaining dough onto a lightly floured work surface; divide in half. Roll out each half into a 14-inch round. Fit rounds into two 10-inch pie plates; crimp edges as desired. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.
Roll out reserved dough to 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to a baking sheet and freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Using a leaf-shape cookie cutter or a paring knife, cut leaves from dough. Freeze until cold, about 10 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Whisk 1 egg and heavy cream in a small bowl; set aside. Brush edges of pie shells with a wet pastry brush; arrange leaves around edges, pressing to adhere. Brush leaves with egg wash. Cut 2 large circles of parchment; fit into pie shells, extending above edges. Fill with pie weights. Freeze until cold, about 10 minutes.
Bake pie shells 10 minutes. Remove weights and parchment; bake 5 minutes more. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
If using fresh pumpkin, discard seeds. Scoop out flesh using a large spoon; transfer to a food processor. Process until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer pumpkin to a large bowl. Add brown sugar, cornflour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, nutmeg, remaining 6 eggs and evaporated milk; whisk until combined.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Place pies on a rimmed baking sheet. Divide pumpkin mixture evenly between shells. Bake until all but centres are set, 35 to 40 minutes. Let pies cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into wedges and serve with whipped cream.
Our final find is a stylish front of house wreath… and to keep the vampires from your door…
Pulp Fiction Sources: About dallas, big pumpkin, Martha Stewart, Hendy Curzon Gardens, bluepumpkin, doilypumpkin, glitterpumpkin, George graphics, pumpkin-pie-520, Telegraph, Temple community garden, whatapumpkin, calabazas3, halloween5, gatonegro, unknown, orangedoor, paintedpumpkin, stellabird.com, pumpkincandle, vampire-pumpkin, the examiner, serendipityinthekitchen.com.