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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Honoring the (5) Great "new brand" Pumpkins (National Pumpkin Day 2019)


Today is not part of my blog posting schedule for this week, but this entry is being published in honor of National Pumpkin Day!

One can hardly think of pumpkins without thinking of The Great Pumpkin made famous by Charles Schultz's Peanuts character, Linus, who can be seen with Sally (directly above) taking delight in a pumpkin patch, where they are awaiting the arrival of him/her.

This year I have five great "new brand variety" pumpkins and a few "standard" pumpkins, all of which I got from various farmers in the tri-state area who come to the Greenmarkets on the UWS.

I'll start with the "standard looking" pumpkin, which can be seen in the image below and was taken in my rooftop garden, when she was posing with one of my Anemone flowers.

Many sources (including an agricultural magazine for kids) concur, "Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons and zucchini. These plants are native to Central America and Mexi- co, but now grow on all continents except Antarctica. Pumpkins have been grown in North America for five thousand years. They are native to the western hemisphere."

The aforementioned page goes on to explain, "The bright orange color of pumpkins is your first clue that it is full of one important antioxidant, beta-carotene... Sometimes pollen comes from a flower on a different pumpkin plant. This is called CROSS-POLLINATION. Cross-pollination
can be harmful to some plants, but it is good for pumpkins. It can make them healthier and tastier.
Sometimes farmers cross-pollinate pumpkins on purpose to create a brand..."

It's been my good fortunate to see some new "brands" this season. I now have five of them in  my rooftop garden and I will tell you interesting facts re each type within this entry.

I'll start first with the Cinderella Pumpkin (AKA Cucurbita pepo) seen in the next photograph where like the "standard looking" pumpkin, she is posing with my anemone.

According to a web-page for Terroir Seeds, she is sometimes known as "Red Etampes or more properly, Rouge Vif D'Etampes. 'Rouge Vif'' means 'bright or vivid red' and this originated in the medieval town of Etampes, a small town about 30 miles southwest of Paris. The name correctly means 'Bright red pumpkin from Etampes.' Skin is bright orange to orange-red and flesh has an excellent flavor. 

"The Cinderella nickname is because they resemble the pumpkin that Cinderella's fairy godmother transformed into a carriage, having that almost perfectly round, deeply ribbed and slightly flattened shape. It is said that this was the model for Cinderella's coach.

"It was a very common sight in the Paris Central Market in the 1880's. Introduced to American gardeners in 1883." 

She comes from Stokes Farm, a place who participates in The Greenmarket at Tucker Square (a small area across from Lincoln Center on the UWS in in NYC).

I've known about Stoke's place for over fourteen years! Ronny (a member of their family) sold me my ever-thriving smoke bush nearly thirteen years ago!

In any event, the second kind of "new brand category" pumpkin that I now have is known by the name Fairytale Pumpkin (AKA Cucurbita moschata) is also from Stokes.

A web-page for The Territorial Seed Company describes the Fairytale Pumpkin this way: "A French heirloom that is deeply lobed and well known for it's delicious mahogany orange flesh. The flesh is thick, succulent, deep orange and can be used for any baked squash recipe. Perfect for pies or stands up well in chunks for curry or cream sauce recipes. Very showy. Almost looks like a fancy, ribbed cheese round. Hard to find heirloom pumpkin - a selection that came out of Musquee De Provence." 

My third "new brand category" pumpkin is known as a Blue Pumpkin (AKA Cucurbita maxima).

As with my Cinderella and Fairytale pumpkins, I also got her at the Tucker Square Greenmarket, but not from Stokes. My Blue Pumpkin variety is from a farm named Prospect Hills Orchards. Like Stokes, I've known the growers at Prospect Hills Orchards for a number of years and have written about their main farmer, Pamela Torrres, in prior posts including ones discussing gourds (click here and here to read) as well as an entry about her berries).

This Blue Pumpkin (very pale blue as of now) willingly posed for a photo-op alongside my anemone.

A page for Speciality Produce explains, "Blue pumpkins are medium to large in size, averaging 15-25 centimeters in diameter and weighing 6-10 pounds, and are round to oblate in shape with a flattened blossom and stem end. The smooth rind is firm, deeply-ribbed and can range in color from dark green to a dusty blue-green with a light brown, rough stem...

".... The flesh is thick, dense, deep orange, and encases a central cavity filled with pulp and flat, cream-colored seeds. Blue pumpkins are aromatic and are known for their mildly fruity, sweet flesh. When cooked, they have a smooth, dry, and string-less texture."Blue pumpkins, botanically classified as  grow on annual, long sprawling vines that can grow up to nine meters in length and are members of the Cucurbitaceae family along with gourds and squash. 

"There are many different varieties of Blue pumpkins including Queensland Blue, Australian Blue, Jarrahdale, Blue Doll, Blue Moon, and Blue Lakota. Blue pumpkins are extremely popular in Australia and New Zealand where they are prized as a cooking pumpkin because of their thick flesh and superior flavor. Blue pumpkins are also favored for their unusual dusty blue-green rinds and contrasting bright orange flesh."

The fourth "new brand category" pumpkin I have is called named Musquee De Provence (AKA "C. moschata") and she is from Gaia's Breath Farm.  This pumpkin variety, according to a web-page for Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, is "big, flat (and) shaped like large wheels of cheese and are heavily lobed and ribbed. The skin is a beautiful, rich brown color when ripe...This traditional variety from southern France is great for fall markets..."

I got this particular variety from those who grow produce at Gaia's Breath Farm.

They come to a different UWS Greenmarket which is held on Sunday's in a spot located alongside and in front of The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).

I first became acquainted with them in September of 2018 when I got a Galeux d’Eysines Pumpkin from them, which can be seen in the next picture, taken last year in my garden.

A web-page for Speciality Produce states, "The Galeux d’ Eysines is mentioned in Vilmorin-Andrieux’s famous album, Les Plantes Potagères, dating back to 1883. Its name, a nod to its unique appearance and point of origin, is believed to have originally been known as Borde Galeux d’ Eysines, which in French translates to 'embroidered with scabs from Eysines.' Today the squash is still favored for its unusual appearance, and home gardeners in the United States have discovered unique ways to personalize the fruits. The young squash can be lightly etched with words or designs, and as the squash matures, it will fill in the etching with warts. This process allows gardeners to be creative with a result in having a one-of-a-kind decorative item for fall displays...

"Galeux d’ Eysines squash is an heirloom variety which originated in Eysines, France in the nineteenth century. The Galeux d’ Eysines is thought to have then made its way to the United States in 1996 after seeds were brought back by squash expert and author Amy Goldman from the Foire aux Potirons pumpkin festival in Tranzault, France. Still a unique variety in America, it can be found when in season at farmers markets and in home gardens and is also found in Europe."

I had hoped to get a Galeux d’Eysines Pumpkin from Gaia's Breath Farm again this year, but, alas they did not grow this variety in 2019.

My fifth "new brand variety" is a Pimple Pumpkin, also comes from another farmer at the UWS Sunday Greenmarket. As you can see in the following photograph, the Pimple Pumpkin resembles the Galeux d’Eysines Pumpkin in texture.

Web-writer, Amy Grant, has this to say (on a page for gardening KNOW HOW) re Pimple Pumpkins (or Warty Pumpkins as she calls them):

"While many people desire a smooth, unblemished pumpkin to carve for Halloween, others love the look of the recently introduced warty pumpkin varieties. No, these aren’t afflicted with some heinous disease; they are actually genetically engineered to create bumpy pumpkin fruit. It is actually natural and not unusual for pumpkins to have bumps, but years of selective breeding have weeded out this natural tendency until what we view as the norm are unblemished pumpkin."

I am not surprised to learn that because of the bumpy appearance of this pumpkin variety, some people think the pumpkin is "afflicted with some heinous disease." 

And with that quote, please let me digress a bit, dear reader, for their response reminds me of how people have reacted to my own lumps and bumps, which I have as a result of being born with the medical (neurological) condition, Neurofibromatosis Type-One.

These lumps and bumps of mine (I have thousands) have been the source of physical and emotional pain since birth. On a frequent basis, perfect strangers have stopped me on the street to ask why I look the way I do.

In August of 2018, while I was getting a courtesy water at a place on Manhattan's Westside, a perfect stranger (young man) pointed to the growths (lumps and bumps) on my arms; grimaced, then demanded, "What is that?" 

The incident was hardly an unusual encounter for me, it has been my experience ever since childhood. I explained to him that my bumps were due to my having been born with NF and went on to tell him that the growths that he was seeing were not actually bumps, rather they were tumors wrapped on my nerve endings that pushed through my skin’s surface.

The perfect stranger wasn’t particularly interested in my response, and I don’t think he really cared about why I have bumps, rather I think it was a passive form of bullying.

But as I said, my encounter with this individual is something I experience frequently, and that particular one caused me to think that the next time it happened, I would take a beat, remove my glasses, and look at my bumps; then I’d say, "you are right, I do have bumps! I hadn’t noticed. Thanks for letting me know!"

I will say that chance meeting also prompted me to have a small card designed to briefly explain NF (question on the front, brief answer on the back).

Unfortunately, I forgot about having these cards during a time when another awkward and painful moment took place in February of this year. However, it was over the phone so there would have been no opportunity to hand the person (who questioned my looks) a card.

Here's what happened:

I was speaking over the phone with a woman who is a professor at Fordham University re the delays in my having a marketing intern when she asked me how I addressed my "skin condition" when meeting with people for the first time.

I told her that I did not have a skin condition, rather, I had Neurofibromatosis (NF), a neurological condition in which one of the manifestations causes lump and bumps (neurofibromas) to appear all over the body.

Her response was to tell me that I should work with an intern by phone because they might be afraid of catching something from me. I assured her NF is not contagious but she still insisted that I work with one by phone so that no one would see my physical appearance.

I was devastated by her response but ultimately prompted to complete my long standing book project, Imperfect Strangers, which is now being considered  for publication

Details can be found within videos on  both my Vimeo and You Tube channels.



But I have truly digressed!

Now I'm getting back to what the aforementioned web-page (authored by Amy Grant) says regarding the "pimple" or "wart" looking growths on this variety, in addition to what I mentioned previously, the page's narrative states, "While many people desire a smooth, unblemished pumpkin to carve for Halloween, others love the look of the recently introduced warty pumpkin varieties... they are actually genetically engineered to create bumpy pumpkin fruit. It is (quite) natural and not unusual for pumpkins to have bumps, but years of selective breeding have weeded out this natural tendency until what we view as the norm are unblemished pumpkins.

"Over the course of ten years of selective breeding, the brand Super Freak has released their most wart-riddled pumpkins to date, Knuckle Head pumpkins. These are genetically designed to be 12-16 pounds of lumpy, bumpy, perfectly sized for carving especially, and deliciously creepy. Gargoyle and Goosebumps are other varieties of warty pumpkin."

The words, "deliciously creepy" really strike a chord with me, for as I've told you, I am hyper-sensitive to remarks made about lumpy and bumpy appearances.

Be that as it may, certain pumpkins which farmers grow and I aren't the only ones to experience disparaging remarks re a lumpy and bumpy appearance!

The appearance of a Muscovy duck, the bird type featured in the next photo where she is walking on a pier at the Hudson River, has a physical appearance — to a certain extent — which resembles my neurofibromas or the texture of Galeux d’Eysines Pumpkins and Pimple Pumpkins.

web-page for The Cornell Lab of Ornithology states the following: "Muscovy Ducks have red facial skin with odd warty growths." The Muscovy duck's so-called "odd warty growths" (featured in the following image which is from Wiki) are what remind me of my NF-related growths.

Another source (also associated with Cornell) calls her type “frankly, gross because her skin is not only red it is quite bumpy..."

I have an advantage over the Muscovy in that I can hand out my NF cards or write articles, blog posts and books to raise awareness as to what's causing my lumps and bumps; but there's not much this duck can do, except to know that there are people who appreciate the muscovy's appearance, including a duck rehabber who has this to say: "Sometimes when people see muscovy ducks they say, 'Eeww! Ugly!' Then I usually say, 'Look who’s talking. You’re one to judge!,' in response, but that doesn’t make me many friends... It’s true, the muscovy can be an odd duck when you first see one. But once you know all about them, they’re really quite beautiful..."

So, the Muscovy duck, just like The Galeux d’Eysine from Gaia's Breath, the Pimple Pumpkins, and yours truly, "receive" a description of our physical appearance which greatly varies, depending on who is talking.

Be that as it may, having NF is something I do my best not to dwell on, rather, I make every effort to learn life lessons (on coping with my physical appearance) from the various birds I have encountered in my rooftop garden.

As of this date they include (alphabetically) a lone American kestrel, a lone American GoldfinchAmerican Robins,  a lone Baltimore orioleBluejaysCardinalsChickadeesCommon GracklesDark-eyed JuncoesDowny WoodpeckersEuropean StarlingsHouse FinchesHouse SparrowsMourning DovesNorthern MockingbirdsPigeons, a lone Red-Tailed Hawk, a lone Rose-Breasted GrosbeakTufted Titmouses, and a lone White-Breasted Nuthatch).

I've also learned a lot from the avian community through its members whom at I've met outside of my garden either when I've been at the beach or in city park. Each bird I meet has a unique physical difference, making the creature something to cherish and not deem as being "freaky."

This is evidenced by the awesome photo-ops of my feathered friends enjoying their surroundings, all of which can be found throughout the volumes of my book series, Words In Our Beak.


It seems I've digressed again on this National Pumpkin Day, so I best conclude this post, but not before telling you that in addition to my two standard pumpkins and my five "new brand variety" pumpkins, I have five little pumpkins to keep things lighthearted...

.... as they remind me of a song from my childhood, Five Little Pumpkins.

Take a look at the video below which features it and enjoy your National Pumpkin Day!

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