The first seeds I put in the ground at Honey Creek were pumpkin. It was the end of June, and it was no accident. The back of the package warned me it was a hair too late (at least I figured it was close to hopeless), as this particular variety promised a 105 day seed-to-harvestproduce.
Hm, I thought. That puts me at October. Ever an adventurer (at least in the realm of low stakes gardening), I poked the seeds in the dirt and crossed my fingers. Flowers came and flowers went. I thought maybe I had a male bachelor plant with no hope of pumpkin babies. But slowly a few female flowers opened (they have a round middle, where the male flowers look very, well, male) and I watched, hawk-eyed, for the bees to do their thing.
A week or so ago marked day 65. By then I had four pumpkins on a withering vine–withering, thanks to a bug that got them early. They were melon-sized and turning orange, but the vine was no longer viable. It was looking like I needed to sever the fruit if I wanted any stem at all, and so I released them from their packet-issued growing contract.
Halfway through the experience with the first pumpkin plant (and seeing pumpkins actually come to fruition) I decided to do some hedge betting (it’s only a dollar packet of pumpkin seeds, right?), so I went on and put a few more seeds in the ground mid-July. Turns out it is what the gardening folk call a “fall garden”–and it’s not as unheard of as I’d thought.
Now I’m happily trellising vines onto the deck into September. I dragged out some unused random table and iron rack from the garage and leaned them on their sides to support the pumpkin plants. It looked like a major junkyard there for a couple days, but I’ve wound the plants in and out enough now that it just looks like a pumpkin paradise. Next year I don’t think I’ll do pumpkins right up against the house, but this year they sure didn’t mind living in the mulched safety of the former flower beds and spreading their leafy vines up the woody wisteria.
I shouldn’t let my mind go there, but I do indulge in the dreamy idea of a someday pumpkin patch. I grew up in the river bottoms with pumpkin farmers as neighbors, so it’s a familiar memory. The blueberries I put in the ground have already been uprooted a few times thanks to some nosy armadillos (Joe shot one into the pond and it just resurfaced this morning, rest his armored soul), but–pumpkins?! Aren’t they a little hardier? Armadillo-proof?
With this in mind (and if you can rid your own mind of that awful armadillo photo), I thought it’d behoove me to go ahead and recipe test the one item you must sell at any good fall festival–a spiced donut.
This is just the pumpkin spice version–I’ve got an apple cider donut in the works. The pumpkin variety makes a LOAD of donuts, so perfect for a backyard fall fest of your own. Make sure you eat them fresh from the pot, warm and rolled in cinnamon sugar.
Pumpkin Spice Drop Donuts
- 1 1/2 c. milk
- 1 stick butter
- 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp. yeast
- 1 egg
- 1 c. pumpkin puree
- 7-8 c. flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp. ginger
- 1/2 tsp. each: allspice, cloves, nutmeg (all optional, if you don’t have it, it’ll still be delicious!)
Warm up milk and butter until butter has melted; do not scald milk. Let cool until it is warm but not so warm it is hot to the touch. We’re going for baby bathwater-warm. Mix in sugar, sprinkle yeast on top. Let sit a few minutes to see if the yeast is active, then add in egg and pumpkin puree. Using the dough hook on the mizer, add dry ingredients and enough flour. The dough will be very thick but still sticky. Let the dough hook knead at medium for 8 minutes or so. Cover and let rise 1 hour.
Fry donuts by dropping a cookie scoop of dough into hot oil (I use vegetable or canola on a medium burner in a heavy crock). Try to not disturb the dough too much when scooping, or it won’t be a light fluffy donut like you want. Fry 1-2 minutes on each side, remove donut to paper towels to drain. Roll in cinnamon sugar while warm.
Cinnamon sugar mix: 1/2 c. granulated sugar, 2 tsp. cinnamon, pinches of nutmeg and allspice