Friday 31 August 2012


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The differences between pumpkins, squashes and gourds can be confusing and it is sometimes difficult to tell them apart. Their names are often used interchangeably. So what are the differences between them? 

Squashes, pumpkins and gourds belong to the Cucurbitaceae family.  These species include Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita cucurbita, Cucurbita laganeria, Cucurbita mixta, Cucurbita pepo and Cucurbita moschata.

The Cucurbitaceae family includes vegetables such as cucumber, melon, and watermelon. Plants bear palmately lobed, alternate, and simple leaves and have spiraling tendrils.  They have yellow flowers and their fruits are specialized berries called pepos, which can grow very large. 

Hubbard squash, buttercup squash and some prize pumpkins belong to the C.maxima species. The cushaw squash belongs to C.mixta, whilst the butternut squash belongs to C.moschata.  Most pumpkins, acorn squash, summer squash and courgette (zucchini) belong to the C.pepo species.

All pumpkins are squashes, but not all squashes are pumpkins. Gourds are from the same family as squashes.


Within squash it is useful to differentiate between summer and winter types. 

The summer types are fast maturing, have soft rinds, are consumed when the fruit is immature, and are quite perishable. They include yellow squash, Courgette and scallop squash. 

On the other hand, the winter squash take longer to mature, one hundred days versus fifty days, have a long storage life, several months versus two weeks, are consumed when the fruits and seeds are fully mature, and have durable rinds


A pumpkin is a squash that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family.  Native to North America, it commonly refers to any one of the species Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita pepo and Cucurbita moschata.

Pumpkin stems are generally more prickly, angular and rigid that the softer and more rounded stems of squashes. Pumpkins typically have a thick, orange or yellow shell, although some fruits may be green, grey, orange- yellow, white or red.

Pumpkins generally weigh 4-8 kg (9-18 lbs), but the largest species Cucurbitia maxima can reach huge proportions of over 34 kg (75 llbs). They vary in shape from oblong to oblate. They are smooth and lightly ribbed, creased from stem to the bottom. 

The C.pepo species is usually recognized as the true pumpkin. Varieties within this group are often used for jack o lanteen halloween celebrations as they have bright orange skin and hard, woody, distinctly furrowed stems.


A gourd is a plant of the family Cucurbitaceae. Gourd is occasionally used to describe crops like cucumbers, squash, luffas, and melons

The term gourd, however, can more specifically refer to the plants of the two Cucurbitaceae genera Lagenaria and Cucurbita or also to their hollow, dried-out shell. 

Normally they are inedible due to a lack of flesh and/or bad taste, although some varieties such as the snake gourd can be eaten.

Tuesday 28 August 2012


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Pumpkin soup is delicious and a great way to enjoy your home grown pumpkin.  Eat on Halloween, or whenever the fancy takes you.
Serves 6-8

1 kg pumpkin
2 onions
4 tbsp olive oil
700 ml vegetable stock
150 ml pot double cream
4 slices wholemeal seeded bread
Handful pumpkin seeds        


Heat 2 table spoons of olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onions (finely chopped) and cook for 5 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the peeled, de-seeded and chopped pumpkin to the pan and carry on cooking for 8-10 mins.  Stir occasionally until it starts to soften and turn golden.

Pour the vegetable stock into the pan, then season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 mins until the pumpkin is very soft. Add the double cream and bring back to the boil.  Purée with a hand blender. 

While the soup is cooking, slice the crusts from 4 slices of wholemeal seed bread, then cut the bread into small croutons. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan, then fry the bread until it starts to become crisp. Add a handful of pumpkin seeds to the pan, then cook for a few mins more until they are toasted. 

To serve, scatter the soup with croutons and seeds and drizzled with more olive oil.

For related articles click onto:
Butternut squash with leek and stilton
How to Grow Pumpkins from Seed

Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin carving
Pumpkin cupcakes
Pumpkin Risotto recipe
Recipe for home made olive bread
Recipe for pumpkin soup
Recipe for pumpkin pie
Recipe for pumpkin puree
What is Halloween?
What is the difference between a squash, pumpkin and a gourd?

Saturday 25 August 2012


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

This recipe for pumpkin pie is easy to make and perfect for Halloween.  Happing eating.
Serves 8


Sweet short crust pastry
450 g / 1lb prepared weight pumpkin flesh
3 eggs
1 oz / 275 ml double cream
1oz / 75g soft dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground cloves


Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Roll out the sweet crust pastry and line a dish 9 inch/23 cm diameter and 1½ inches/4 cm deep.

Cut the pumpkin into 1 inch / 2.5 cm chunks.  Steam the pumpkin for 20 minutes.  Place in a coarse sieve and press lightly to extract any excess water.

Lightly whisk the eggs together in a large bowl.

Place the sugar, spices and the cream in a pan.  Bring to simmering point and whisk to mix everything together. Then pour it over the eggs and whisk it again briefly.

Add the pumpkin pureé and whisk thoroughly. Pour the filling into the pastry case and bake for 35-40 minutes until it puffs up round the edges but still feel slightly wobbly in the centre.

Allow to cool.

Serve chilled with whipped cream.

For related articles click onto:
How to Grow Pumpkins from Seed
How to make pastry
Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin carving
Pumpkin cupcakes
Pumpkin Risotto recipe
Recipe for pumpkin soup
Recipe for pumpkin pie
Recipe for pumpkin puree
What is Halloween?
What is the difference between a squash, pumpkin and a gourd?

Monday 20 August 2012


Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between vegetables, which can often mislabelled.  Turnips and swedes are an example of this.

Turnips and swedes are both root vegetables belonging to the cabbage family.  However they are often confused, even though they look quite different. The difference between turnips and swedes is evident when you see the two side by side. 


Swedes (Brassica napus napobrassica) originate from Sweden and are also known as the Swedish turnip, yellow turnip or rutabaga.

Larger than the turnip, the swede is roughly the size of a shoe.  Its rough skin is creamy white and partly purple, with a distinctive 'collar'. Their flesh is yellow/orange and has a sweet, mild taste when roasted.

Cropping over a long time, swedes are frost proof and can stay in the soil throughout the winter.


Turnips (Brassica rapa) are smaller than swedes, usually about the size of a golf ball. 

Thursday 16 August 2012



The following fruit and vegetables have grown to epic proportions.  They have broken records for the longest, heaviest or largest fruit/vegetables. Hopefully they will inspire you to grow your own giant vegetables and emulate these fantastic specimens.

World's Biggest Sweet Potato

(24.9 Lbs or 11.2 Kg)

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Lebanese farmer Khalil Semhat, from the southern city of Tyre, couldn't believe his peeled eyes when he discovered he had grown a massive potato weighing 11.3 kilos (24.9 pounds), setting a record for the world's largest potato

Worlds Largest Marrow

(113 Lbs or 65 Kg)

Grown by Ken Dade in Norfolk, the 65kg (113lbs) vegetable needed two men to carry it to a stand at the National Amateur Gardening Show in Somerset. The voluptuous vegetable has entered the Guinness World Records book, beating the previous world title holder by 3kg. 

World’s Heaviest Jackfruit

(76 Lbs or 34.4 Kg)

The sweet tasting fruit weighed 34.6kg (76lb 4.4oz), measured 57.46 cm (22.625in) long and had a circumference of 121.28 cm on 8 August 2003. It was grown by George and Margaret Schattauer of Captai Cook, Hawaii, USA. Native to Western India, the fruit spread throughout South East Asia and first came to Hawaii in 1888. 

World's Largest Green Cabbage

(76 Lbs or 34.4 Kg)

John Evans, a mechanical designer who lives 40 miles north of Anchorage in Palmer, Alaska, holds seven world records for giant vegetables. One of them is this Green Cabbage, who weighted over 76 lb, making it a world record in 1998. 

World's Largest Watermelon

(268.8 Lbs or 122 Kg)

Weighting 268.8 pounds, this watermelon made the cut as the world's largest watermelon. Grown at the Hope Farm Store by Lloyd Bright, his family has a long history with watermelons: they set world records in melon size in 1979 with a 200 pound melon and again in 1985 with one that weighed 260 pounds. 

World's Heaviest Carrot

(18.9 Lbs or 8.5 Kg)

Presented by John Evans in 1998, this 18.985 pound (8.61 kg) carrot is the heaviest ever. 

World’s Largest Pumpkin

(1689 Lbs or 766 Kg)

Grown in Rhode Island, the world’s biggest pumpkin was shown at the Topsfield Fair of Massachusetts in 2007, weighing 1689 lbs. 

World’s Longest Cucumber

(36.1 in or 0.9 mts)

The 36.1in cucumber was grown by Alf Cobb who beat his own record of 35.1in at the National Amateur Gardening Show, from the Bath and West Showground in south-west England.

World's Largest Cauliflower

(31.25 Lbs or 14.1 Kg)

Also grown by Evans, this Cauliflower weighted 31.25 lb, making it Alaska's largest one in 1997.

World's Heaviest Broccoli

(35 Lbs or 15.8 Kg)

Monday 13 August 2012


A vegetable is part of the plant harvested for food such as the seeds, root, stem or leaf of a plant.  It differs from a fruit, which is the swollen ovary of a flowering plant, and therefore contains seeds. 

Fruits and vegetables are referred to differently in botanical, culinary and retail terms, and terms are often used interchangeably. 

We use a variety of vegetables within our cooking, and utilise many parts of these plants.

Roots & Storage Roots
Beets, cassava (tapioca), horse radish, jicama, potato, parsnip, salsify, sweet, radish, rutabaga and turnip.

·       Leaves & Leafy Heads
Brussels sprouts, cabbage, endive, lettuce, kale, lettuce, parsley. 

·      Immature Flower Cluster (Inflorescence) & Stalk (Peduncle)
Broccoli, cauliflower.

·       Sunflower Head 

·       Stem
Asparagus, bamboo shoots and kohlrabi.

·       Tuber (Modified stem)
Jerusalem artichoke, potato, true yams (Dioscorea).

·       Bulb (modified stem)
Chives, garlic, onion.

·       Corm (modified stem)
Taro, water chestnut.

·       Rhizome

·       Leafy Stalk (Petiole)
Celery, rhubarb and sweet fennel.

Friday 10 August 2012


If you define a botanical vegetable as an edible part of a plant that clearly excludes seed-bearing fruits, then there are a number of possible contenders for this coveted record. Remember that pumpkins and squash must be disqualified because they are seed-bearing fruits.

Some of the top contenders for this record are the blades of large brown algae called kelp, and the tender leaves of the horseradish tree Moringa oleifera (not to be confused with the true horseradish of the mustard family Armoracia lapathifolia).

Perhaps a more logical contender for this record are the massive subterranean yams of the genus Dioscorea, some of which may weigh over 120 pounds (54 kg). These yams are not to be confused with fleshy storage roots of red sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) of the Morning Glory Family which are also called yams.

The 2011 Guinness Book Of World Records (UK Edition) lists some of the record-breaking vegetables, including:

85 pound swede
     The heaviest swede weighs 38.92 kg (85 lb 12 oz) and was grown by Ian Neale (UK). It was weighed at the National Gardening Show at the Royal Bath & West Showground in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, UK, on 4 September 2011.

      27 pound cucumber
     Alfred J. Cobb (UK) grew a cucumber weighing 12.4 kg (27 lb 5.3 oz) and presented it at the National Amateur Gardening Show's UK National Giant Vegetables Championship at Shepton Mallet, Somerset, UK on 5 September 2003.

39 pound turnip
     The heaviest turnip weighed 17.7 kg (39 lb 3 oz) and was grown by Scott and Mardie  Robb (both USA) who presented it the Alaska State Fair, Palmer, USA on 1 September 2004.

42 pound red cabbage
      The heaviest red cabbage weighed 19.05 kg (42 lb) and was grown by R. Straw of Staveley, Derbyshire, UK in 1925.

35 pound broccoli
      A broccoli grown by John and Mary Evans of Palmer, Alaska, USA in 1993 weighed 15.87 kg (35 lb).

54 pound cauliflower
      A 127 pound (57 kg) cabbage, six feet (1.8 m) in diameter. The heaviest cabbage weighed 57.61 kg (127 lb) and was presented at the Alaska State Fair by Steven Hubacek (USA) of Wasilla, Alaska, USA, on 4 September 2009.

Nicknamed "The Beast" by Mr. Hubacek, the cabbage outweighed its closest competitor by 17.46 kg (38.5 lb) and broke the 57.11 kg (125.9 lb) record set 2 days before by another cabbage also grown by Mr. Hubacek.