Pumpkins are worthless (for eating), and why you should be growing Butternut squash instead:

What's wrong with pumpkins in small gardens:

1. Pumpkins have hollow stems which are much loved by the squash vine borer.  If any of the borers escape into your soil, the effect will be to double the attack upon your zucchini and any other summer squash you wish to grow.

2. Pumpkins require more space than any other vegetable you can grow, and the output of useable pumpkin flesh is less than anything else you could grow in the same space.

3. Pumpkins are such heavy feeders and drinkers, that more soil amendments and more nutrients are required than for any other crop you can grow.

4. Pumpkins attract squash bugs and cucumber beetles in greater numbers than other crops which are attractive to those insects.  There are very few organic controls for the bugs that like pumpkins.

5. Unless you grow the smaller sized varieties, cooking a pumpkin is a chore now that the microwave oven has proven to be the most convenient method.

6. Pumpkins have a short shelf life.  To get them to last in fresh condition until the following April or May is  just about impossible.

7. Gardeners have bad backs.  Who can afford to hire field hands to lift and haul that big fruit?

8. Pumpkins make lousy pies.  Look at all the sugar and spice needed for taste.  Worse yet, the pies always fall flat after removal from the oven.

Butternut Squash is better at being a pumpkin in all things:

1. Butternuts have solid stems and are not attacked by the squash vine borer.

2. Last summer, I harvested 79 butternuts from just two vines.  I'm not bragging, but in the same space I could have gotten 4 large pumpkins or 12 small pumpkins.  The amount of useable flesh from the butternuts was at least 4 times greater, and that is without processing the flesh that surrounds the seed cavity.

3. Butternuts require little in the way of fertilizer or water by comparison.  I gave them a little less than one inch of leaf compost the previous November, and that's all.

4. I have not observed a squash bug working the butternuts.  The cucumber beetles gather in the blossoms, but cause little damage, and unlike the pumpkins, there are only two to five beetles per blossom.

5. Butternuts are cooked completely and quickly in the microwave oven, and the puree'd flesh is much finer.  

6. Butternuts, stored in a cool basement last until April or May in fine condition.

7.  Any gardener can lift a butternut squash.  

8. Compared  to squash pie or sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie will lose every time.  Butternut squash, puree'd or souped or pied, has flavor, is free of grainy or stringy parts, and the pies stand up well after being removed from heat.  If you look hard, you will find some grainy flesh or stringy parts in all the hard shell cucurbits.  We eliminate those parts by using only the stem-end flesh, and discarding the half containing the seed cavity.  We can be wasteful because the butternuts are such heavy producers.

9. The half of each butternut that we discard, feeds our cardinals over the winter.  They love the cooked flesh and the seeds.  All of our neighbors' cardinals belong to us now.

10. Not convinced yet?  Butternut squash has more beta carotene per ounce than pumpkin. A pumpkin grows by expanding its outer shell like a stuffed politician, while the butternut delivers solid flesh and flavor.

11. Still not convinced?  A hail or wind storm can flatten a pumpkin patch, while the butternuts hardly notice.

I have been growing the Zenith Hybrid from Stokes seeds for many years. They average 4 lbs. and while slightly smaller than the popular Waltham variety, are much heavier.  Another one to try is the Ultra Butternut Hybrid which is twice the size and three times the weight of Waltham.  They can weigh up to 10 lbs. and will in some cases, be too large for the microwave oven.

Finally, and probably the last straw as well, a brown pie will never be as appetizing or as uplifting to the spirits as an orange pie.  If you still insist on growing pumpkins for food, ask yourself why does the canned pumpkin in the supermarket contain no pumpkin.  It's squash.

The following recipe from the "Joy of Cooking" is worth the price of the whole book.

Sour Cream Butternut Squash Pie           One 9-inch pie; 8 servings

A tangy pie with a light, soufflelike texture.  Position a rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Building up a high fluted rim, prepare in a 9-inch pan, preferably glass, glazing with the egg yolk: Baked Flaky Pastry Crust, or Pat-in-the-Pan Butter Crust.

In a large, heavy saucepan, whisk together thoroughly:
1½ cups freshly cooked butternut squash
8 ounces (scant 1 cup) sour cream
¾ cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
¼ teaspoon salt
Whisking constantly, heat over medium heat until just warm to the touch.
Beat on medium speed until foamy: 3 large egg whites, at room temperature.  Add: ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar.  Continue to beat until soft peaks form, then gradually beat in: ¼ cup sugar
Increase the speed to high and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the squash mixture. Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Bake until the top has browned lightly and feels softly set when touched, 40 to 50 minutes.  Let cool completely on a rack. At this point the pie can be refrigerated for up to 1 day. Let warm at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Call me.  Then, serve with: whipped cream.

Want to send a copy of this recipe to your Mom?  High-light the recipe text.  Then, open the Edit menu, and click on copy.  Then click on this e-mail link.  Then, open the edit menu, and click on paste.  Enter your Mom's e-mail address and click on send.  (tested on IE 5.0, may not work on other browsers)

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