Food

Pumpkin philosophy

I decided to spend more time on my kitchen garden early this year. So I planted some pumpkin seeds. The shoots and leaves dutifully made their appearance in a few days. I sprayed them with a blend of ginger, garlic and green chilli paste mixed with water. In a month’s time, the creeper had taken over most of the ground space. A profusion of big mango yellow flowers with pointed petals, all open to the sky burst forth. I was delighted with my pumpkin patch.

My pumpkin is the yellow pumpkin or what we call arasinikkai. The skin goes from dark green to a mature yellow and the inside is a darker shade of yellow.

These are best planted in May when the soil is not too moist and there is plenty of sunshine. The pumpkin blossoms resemble the edible zucchini blossoms in colour and shape and they are equally delicious. And the pumpkin has both male and the female flowers.

Due to dwindling bee and butterfly populations, pollination is not just that great as before. And, if the flowers do not get pollinated, then they will just wither and die. A lot of gardening sites suggest manual pollination that has to be done with great dexterity and utmost care.

I anxiously kept a look out for insect activity around my pumpkin patch.

I steeled myself to try manual pollination. But, when I stopped by my pumpkin patch one morning, my heart sang. There were dozens of black and yellow bees buzzing away industriously. Thank god I did not have to do their work! The bees, with their legs covered with pollen, unerringly landed into an open female flower. I was watching natural pollination right there before my eyes! I shared my first harvest of pumpkins with my garden helpers, friends and family. The pumpkin’s colour, taste and freshness was amazing.

Pumpkins are versatile and easily adapt themselves to many cuisines.

Pumpkin in a channa dhal gravy is as tasty as a cinnamon-flavoured pumpkin pie. The seeds are super tasty and crunchy when roasted. Seasoned with a bit of chilli powder and salt, they are a highly nutritious snack. I often add them to my papaya salad.

As I write this , round two of the pumpkin cycle is underway . The flowers are open, the bees and the occasional butterfly are flitting about and the first lot of fruit is making its appearance. This has been an educational experience. I know now that the male flowers can be picked once the pollination is done and made into a delicious dish.

I have also learnt that by planting flowers alongside the fruits and vegetables attracts more of our flying helpers in pollination. Besides, it adds to the beauty of the garden. Soon I will have big cheerful sunflowers next to the fat round pumpkins. I cannot wait to share the next bounty. My hearty Mexican pumpkin soup, garnished with crisp tortilla chips and fresh coriander, awaits…


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Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 7:35:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Food/remembering-apj-abdul-kalam/article7481451.ece

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