A Growing Affair

The Styrian pumpkin (Curcubita pepo var. styriaca) is not your run of the mill jack-o-lantern garden product. For those of you familiar with my rant – you can stop here. For everyone else, please read on. The sight of hundreds of  green gourds splashed with orange stripes in a late summer field is pure farm art. The bees adore the rich nectar and pollen supply for several weeks. Our growing love affair with this genetic anomaly of the pumpkin family runs through my Slovenijan lineage, where the Styrian pumpkin was ‘born’ over 100 years ago. It is primarily grown in Styria (near the Austrian/Slovenijan boarder) under strict European Union regulations to ensure the absolute purity of the esteemed Styrian pumpkin cold press seed oil (not to be confused with the generic oil from China or pill supplements).

Our trials of this variety last year did phenomenally well despite the cool, short summer we had. This season we’re field testing a new seed source (Hvala Stric Nandi!!) with a slightly thinner gourd shell, and a simpler method of seeding and transplanting. The pumpkin plants need lots of sunshine and water, both of which will be available between the rows of young nut trees for the next several years.

A cold press for oil production doesn’t appear to be in our immediate future, but remains on our radar! Instead we import the oil directly from Kurbishof Diemel  of Austria to satisfy our cold press oil needs. However, the enormous roasted shell-less seeds we harvest are a rich protein snack food that last us well into the cold, wet winters.  No one visits the weed patch without a taste of the ‘green gold’. In the fall our chickens and new sheep will be allowed back on the fields tasked with ‘clean up’ of the pumpkin shells – converting the biomass right back into much needed fertilizer.

Fiddlehead Farm Studio’s ‘Carrie’ enjoying a snack at the weed patch.

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