Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, resident and former Citizen of the Year Bruce Schwartz offered special pumpkin plants to anybody who wanted to try to grow them.
Schwartz thought that if enough people grew them, they could be donated to the YMCA Pumpkin Patch in Temescal Canyon and it would help the organization raise money.
Many people took him up on his offer, including Jan Victor, who told Circling the News in an October email: “I have never grown a pumpkin before, let alone a ‘giant’ pumpkin, and I was intrigued by Bruce’s offer of a seedling.
“It grew very quickly, which was fun for my granddaughters and me to watch,” Victor said. “Decades ago, when my children were small, I did have a small vegetable garden one summer. We got only one ear of corn from our corn crop!”
Victor said the most challenging part was protecting the plant from the squirrels. “One morning I came out to find the pumpkins almost totally devoured,” she said, and thanked Bruce for bringing her two replacement plants.
“I wound up moving the plant to the edge of my patio, fencing it in and covering it with a tarp at night,” Victor said. “Sonic plug-ins helped too. Bruce was wonderful — he stopped by to check on my progress many times.”
I grew two plants on the front lawn, but squirrels or rats or rabbits feasted on the four or five young pumpkins that were growing. Two pumpkins were saved and although not huge, I was delighted that they had actually been grown in an area that wasn’t a garden.
Schwartz said that he found most people were like the Circling the News editor: they were so proud of their pumpkins, they wanted to keep them.
I carved my two for Halloween and placed them out on the front step with a bowl of candy. There were actually more trick-or-treaters than last year in the area near Palisades High School.
Promptly on the morning of November 1, the pumpkins were cut in half and baked in the oven until the inside could easily be scooped out. Although smaller “sugar” pumpkins are recommended for baking, there’s really no reason to throw pumpkins away.
Deciding between soup, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread, I used half of the crop to make pumpkin bars. The rest was frozen and will be used at a later date.
A big thanks to Farmer Schwartz for his inspiration. As Victor said, “I can’t wait to do it again next spring. Being home all day every day due to the pandemic, this little plant gave me something to focus on daily.
“When the pumpkin was ‘set’, as Bruce called it, my granddaughters were so excited to watch me cut it from the vine,” she said. “It sits proudly at my front door.”