The golden hues of the lime trees that line our road trumpet their visual fanfare to welcome in autumn. Even before nature’s clock ticks into October, their leaves take on a warm yellow glow and start to leisurely drift onto the grass below.
Then as autumn progresses, the wind from the east begins to whip around our street, blowing many of those leaves into our front garden. A natural layer of leaf litter settles between the plants, leaving an abundantly lined path of which any Halloween set designer would be proud. Soon, the frost kissed spider webs will be making an appearance too.
This is, and always will be, my favourite time of year, with the changing colours of the natural landscape, the beautiful mist filled mornings and the drop in temperature that brushes coldly against your face.
Then come the pumpkins. Big brash orange brightness, their colour bursting through the softer tones.
For me they are another welcome emblem of autumn, not just for Halloween. They are part of nature’s paint palette, delivering brushstrokes of orangeness at its best, along with the more subtle shades of creams and greens carried by other varieties of squashes and gourds.
This year we’ve even grown our own. A not-too-shabby specimen that has successfully survived our novice allotment mishaps. It’s a bit of a smasher, which will look grand on our doorstep welcoming our local witches and ghouls.
I now find myself in a pumpkin pickle though.
I can tell you how it happened.
A brand-new pumpkin patch recently opened, just around the corner on our local farm.
It’s only just over a mile away. So, remarkably close indeed. Its proximity felt like a siren call.
It has a local barista serving coffee from a trendy converted horsebox and a marquee with warm cider and straw bales from where you can admire the field of orange beauties. There are small ones, big ones and some twice the size of your head.
We were only going to get one, or possibly two, to accompany our own-grown miracle but with the teen in charge of the wheelbarrow and the fun that ensued, we stumbled into a kind of “oopsy” moment, when enthusiasm and excitement beat willpower hands down and we ended up with more pumpkins than we could shake a stick at.
It didn’t take long for the dilemma to strike; how are we going to eat them all?
From the very first day I read about the shocking amount of pumpkin waste back in the 2000s, I’ve been on a mission to make pumpkin soup each year, learning by experience that a sprinkling of chilli powder and a pouring of cream can do wonders for the tastebuds. The seeds are also roasted for snacks. Two or three modest sized pumpkins have proven to be manageable. Four exceptionally large ones, coupled with a few of their smaller counterparts are now going to present more of a challenge. Can you see my dilemma? I guess there will have to be a lot of batch cooking and freezing going on.
Thank goodness I’ve also discovered that what is left can be used to help feed our local birds and minibeasts. Indeed the RSPCA encourages us to leave chopped pumpkin outside to help feed the birds. It’s also a delicacy for badgers, squirrels and foxes too. Be careful about hedgehogs though. It is rumoured that too much pumpkin can cause digestive upset for our spiky friends, therefore it is recommended to place them out of their reach.
The colour right now is spectacular and the crab apple outside our bedroom window is also in its prime. It looks quite indulgent showing off its bright red fruit. Through late spring and summer, it played host to four successional broods of collared doves, the last of which have only recently fledged. Now, it provides a banquet of berries ready to welcome a host of hungry birds.
Its leaves will soon change too, in a way that will make the lime tree display look like just an opening act and the crab apple a firecracker of a seasonal finale.
More information about pumpkin waste, and how you can prevent it, can be found at : https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/article/save-your-halloween-pumpkins-bin. There’s also a fun project for children, in the form a Pumpkin House, that can be found at the RSPB website: https://community.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/b/natureshomemagazine/posts/be-a-pumpkin-patch-hero
Karen Cannard and The Team