Gordon Ramsay creates a pumpkin and black truffle risotto
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Growing your own pumpkins is easily done with some forward planning and a few tools. Whether you’re an avid pumpkin-carver on Halloween, or you simply love to use pumpkin in your autumnal recipes, growing pumpkins in your own garden is a quick and easy task for the early summer to secure your autumn harvest – and with these top tips, you can make sure your pumpkin crop thrives ahead of Autumn 2022.
When to plant pumpkin seeds
While you may have missed the prime time to sow pumpkin seeds in the UK, you can never be too prepared when it comes to gardening.
It takes around 90-120 days to mature a pumpkin from seed, though it does depend on the variety.
To give your pumpkins the best chance of growing, you should sow pumpkin seeds indoors before transplanting to your garden after the frost has passed.
Start sowing seeds in empty yoghurt pots or small containers in late April or early May, ready to move outside at the end of May or early June.
For an earlier harvest, sow seeds in mid to late April to give them time to establish indoors for better growth.
Later in May, begin hardening off your indoor-raised plants to slowly introduce them to the outdoor conditions.
You can do this by moving the plants outdoors during the day, then bring them in at night for one week.
The following week, leave in a sheltered spot outdoors all day and night before planting them out in the early signs of summer (June) to thrive outdoors.
How to plant pumpkin seeds
To give your pumpkins the best chances of growth, sow two seeds per pot.
Place in 8cm pots and push the seeds on the side approximately 2cm deep into the soil.
Keep the filled pots in a plastic bag for a week until germinated, or use a propagator if you have one.
If you’re lucky enough to have both seeds germinate, you can separate the plants into separate pots for even more pumpkins.
Move into bigger pots when they have outgrown the original containers, just like you would with houseplants.
Enrich the outdoor soil you plan to move your pumpkins to in April by adding compost using a spade to mix it.
You’ll want to plant them in full sun, with well-drained soil to allow your pumpkins to thrive ready for their autumn harvest.
Plant your established seedlings two to three metres apart outdoors by placing the plant on top of mounds of soil.
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Alternatively, you can sow pumpkin seeds directly into the ground in your garden from Mid-May, making sure to cover them with plastic wrap for two weeks after planting.
How to use pumpkin seeds in the kitchen
Pumpkins are great for Halloween festivities but the seeds and flesh can also be eaten, boasting many health benefits as a natural source of fibre.
You can harvest the seeds or use the flesh of your home-grown pumpkins when they are fully-ripe
- Pumpkins are ripe when they are fully coloured, with a hard rind and woody stem.
- Use a knife to carefully cut the woody stem, making sure to leave several inches of stem on the pumpkin.
- Before consuming the seeds, always scoop them out and wash them first.
Roasted pumpkin seeds
Make a tasty and healthy snack using the seeds by seasoning them with olive oil, salt, garlic powder, paprika and black pepper before roasting.
Spread evenly across a lined baking tray and roast at 175 degrees celsius for 12-15 minutes making sure to toss them every five minutes until they’re brown in colour with a nutty aroma.
For a sweeter tooth, add cinnamon for a super-autumnal seasoning for your pumpkin seeds.
All you need is to toss them in a bowl with:
- Two tablespoons of butter (melted)
- Two cups of pumpkin seeds
- One teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- Two tablespoons of sugar (white or brown)
Toss them in the butter first to coat and then add the cinnamon and sugar.
Spread on to a lined baking tray and cook for 25-27 minutes until lightly golden.
Add pumpkin seeds to:
- Rice dishes
- Sprinkled over red meat
- Vegetable dishes
- Mexican dishes like enchiladas, fajitas
- Cookies, bread, cakes, loaves, muffins
- Pesto, humous, dips
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