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Golden nugget

Pint-sized pumpkins

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JUSTIN RUSSELL lists his top four mini pumpkin varieties that are big in colour and flavour, but compact in size and space needs.

‘Golden Nugget’ Cucurbita maxima (pictured above)

Considering the botanical name, you’d expect this variety to produce the kind of massive pumpkins you see people hauling to agricultural shows on the back of a ute. In reality, ‘Golden Nugget’ is one of the smallest heirloom pumpkins available. The highly decorative, orange-skinned fruit rarely exceeds 15cm in diameter, which is just right for an individual serving and perfect for stuffing. The vines are similarly compact and grow in a bush form just like a zucchini. If your growing space is limited to a balcony or courtyard, ‘Golden Nugget’ is the pumpkin for you.

‘Futsu’ Cucurbita moschata

Japanese market gardeners have an eye for quality vegetables and this is one of their favourites.

‘Futsu’ is picked when the heavily fluted skin is black, but in storage it magically transforms to become a dusty orange. The other thing that happens in storage is a boost in flavour, which goes from being very nice to outstandingly sweet and nutty. Being a moschata pumpkin, ‘Futsu’ can be grown as a climber. Each vine will bear around five pumpkins, which average about 2kg in weight. A first-rate variety that is the equal of any pumpkin grown in Australia.

‘Blue Ballet’ Cucurbita maxima

A contender for the world’s prettiest pumpkin, ‘Blue Ballet’ produces teardrop-shaped fruit clad in powder-blue skin. When cut in half this pumpkin reveals a superb colour contrast with pumpkins, ‘Blue Ballet’ actually tastes good. The flesh is sweet,golden orange flesh. However, unlike some very decorative rich and stringless. It can be used in pumpkin soup, but like other dry-flesh pumpkins it really begs to be cut into pieces, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with thyme and roasted in a hot oven. Though the vines need some space to expand, they’re not massive growers and yield modest crops of three or four pumpkins about 2kg each in weight.

‘Delicata Mini Sweet Bush’
Cucurbita pepo

Botanically, ‘Delicata’ can be more accurately classed as a winter squash than a pumpkin but like its cousins the plant enjoys the same growing conditions and produces decorative torpedo-shaped fruit emblazoned with green and yellow stripes. A running form is available but space-conscious gardeners will want to opt for this bush form, which is compact enough to be grown in a large container. The 1kg pumpkins store well and contain sweet, golden flesh. Cut them in half lengthways, stuff with mushrooms, spinach and cheese, and bake for a delicious treat. This variety is high yielding, producing half a dozen fruit per bush.



Heat lovers

Pumpkins are heat lovers that need warm soil to germinate and a long growing season to ripen fruit to maturity. They are best planted after the risk of frost has passed.

Rich needs

Pumpkins thrive in rich, well-drained soil that is able to supply moisture to the roots but never gets swampy. Unless your soil is top notch, dig in some compost or well-rotted manure then sow seed directly into the final growing position a week later. Growing in mounds can help drainage.

Mildew matters

Pumpkin foliage is prone to mildew diseases, especially in periods of high humidity. Spray a preventative fungicide such as copper hydroxide (sold as Kocide) or potassium bicarbonate (sold as Eco-Fungicide) before forecast wet weather.