Gourds and pumpkins may have been cultivated for 7,000 years. No wonder, because these vegetables, which are of the same family as cucumbers are downright beautiful.
What would primitive man have thought of the squash to be found these days, which look as if they were dropped from outer space? They come in every harvest colour imaginable from green and yellow to orange and almost red and if you want to carve them up before putting a battery-operated candle in them and letting the kids kick them around the yard, go ahead. Some of these exotic things cost about as much as ten bags of Halloween candy though, so why not use them as a decorating tool instead.
“Look at the different colours. They are burnt orange; peachy coloured; warty. Nature has beautifully blended the colours in a way that man could never do,” said Irene Hill on Wednesday as she checked out the pumpkins at the Enjoy Centre.
From a decorative perspective, Hill, a long-time member of the St. Albert Floral Arts Society, advises using a variety of differently sized pumpkins for outdoor arrangements.
“It’s the different sizes that make it look good,” she said. Then, just as she would with most floral arrangements, she arranged the vegetables into a stylized triangle and used small gourds and sprays of leaves to fill in the spaces.
For the mainstay of her arrangement Hill propped a large orange-red, warty pumpkin against a pot.
“The most interesting part of the pumpkin is the top, so I tilted it up so you could see the top and the sides. It’s so beautiful, it kind of told me what to do,” Hill said.
Hill likes to use branches and leaves from her own yard to enhance the arrangement.
“Use red rose hips, mountain ash berries, birch branches – whatever you have in your yard to give it an autumn look,” she said.
Inside the house Hill suggests using small pumpkins as place setting markers on the table.
“For the table centrepiece, take the lid off the pumpkin and hollow it out. Line it with plastic wrap and add an oasis to stick the branches into. Then use the pumpkin as a vase,” she said.
Gourds are inedible, and purely decorative, but Hill likes to cook the pumpkins.
“What I really, really like about pumpkins is you can bake them and you can freeze them and save them and use them when you want,” she said, adding that her favourite recipe is pumpkin cheesecake.
“I discovered it by accident one time when I didn’t have quite enough cream cheese. I just use a standard cheesecake recipe and add one cup of pureed pumpkin and it is delicious and looks pretty in the pan and when you eat it too,” Hill said.