MOST vegie gardeners would agree that big isn't necessarily beautiful.
Squashy zucchinis, pulpy tomatoes, vast, floury potatoes - all have sacrificed flavour for size.
But there's an exception to prove every rule. I recently had the enormous, as you might say, pleasure of the share of a 21-kilogram pumpkin that made the best pumpkin soup I've ever tasted.
The colossal cucurbit was grown by retired architect and dedicated gardener David Mather from seed of Musquee de Provence, a French heirloom pumpkin known for its sweet flesh and long storage capacity.
Musquee de Provence pumpkin vines carry flattened, rounded fruit with deeply lobed ribs and glossy skin ripening from green to terracotta. The flesh is tender and sweet with a faint aroma of watermelon (also a cucurbit).
David began his vegetable garden more than 30 years ago when he and Pat, his wife, and their young children moved to Bathurst.
He had always loved gardening and was looking forward to growing his own vegetables in their large new town garden.
He started by marking out an area 5 by 14 metres on a sunny, gentle slope and employed a backhoe to dig out about 60cm soil. Then he dug a trench across the site, laid a drainage pipe and covered it with aggregate. Finally he re-filled the site with 20 to 30 cubic metres of new topsoil.
David grows a huge variety of vegetables and is incredibly generous when it comes to sharing them.
Pumpkins are a standby, they are easy to grow, don't need too much water and have a variety of uses in the kitchen, being delicious roast, in soup and - I need hardly add - as scones.
They can be grown in all climates from cool temperate to tropical, though in cold districts must be sown after the last frost. One seed will produce two to three fruit: this year David harvested over 40 pumpkins from 12 to 15 seeds.
As with all plants and indeed animals, it pays to give them a good start in life. Once the seeds have germinated David thins out the seedlings and digs in blood and bone and pelleted chook manure, together with some compost, though being tough they don't need much he adds. He uses no other fertiliser. The vines need an occasional drink in a dry summer, this year being a welcome exception.
Pumpkin vines sometimes suffer from powdery mildew late in summer but it doesn't affect the harvest, nor does it affect the compost, whose heat kills the fungus.
Pumpkins bear separate male and female flowers, the females producing an ovary like a small fruit between stem and flower.
Bees transfer the pollen but if they don't get around to it you can easily do it yourself with a small paintbrush.
Musquee is French for musk, an aromatic, reddish-brown substance secreted by male musk deer for scent-marking and an important ingredient in perfumery. They also use it to attract likely looking females.
Maybe there's more to Musquee de Provence than meets the eye. Musquee de Provence seeds are available from www.theseedcollection.com.au 10 seeds, $1.50.
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