It being a wet summer, I am at war with the slugs in our garden, and so far my side is losing. We’ve been here before, of course, remember my husband’s sunflowers last year which – even though he built them a special platform – were reduced to stalks overnight. The same has happened to pumpkins in the past, and so this year I decided not to sow seeds but rather buy sturdy small plants.

Pumpkin (like so many other things I have written about) was not on the menu in Hemel Hempstead in the 1960s. I knew it from US TV programmes, and then not for eating but for being hollowed out by cute children, for Halloween.

I wanted to do that too, of course, but the only available comparable vegetable at the Co-op was swede. The bullet-hard interior made carving my Jack o’ Lantern frustrating and ultimately (after hours of chipping away) unsuccessful.

I think the first pumpkin I ever ate was in a pumpkin pie, made for Thanksgiving 1977 in Bremen, by my American friend Diane.

Many years later I find myself living in a small rural village in Lower Saxony, where everybody grows pumpkin, mostly Hokkaido. In autumn we are likely to find pumpkins deposited anonymously on the bench outside our front door, and so I have learned to make (and love) pumpkin soup:

Along with pumpkin bread and many other delicious recipes.

Despite the slugs, this year’s two pumpkin plants have been doing very well indeed. Not a slug in sight, loads of tendrils and flowers. I was really excited. Imagine my horror, then, when one day last week I went out to inspect them and found the flowers all seemed to have been bitten off:

We couldn’t imagine which animal or insect jaws had sliced through the stalk so cleanly (surely not Winfried the squirrel!) and so turned to the internet for help.

Germans say ‘Man lernt nie aus’, which means ‘You never stop learning’ and how true that is, we mused, as we read that this is absolutely normal, and what happens to every male pumpkin flower!! It is only the females which grow the fruit, and of those we now have plenty, as you can see in the header.

So maybe I will go to the ball…

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