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October 28, 2010 / Malcolm Dalebö

About Pumpkins


  • Pumpkins belong to the Melon (Curcurbita) family.
  • They are typically orange or yellow and have many creases running from the stem to the bottom.
  • They have a thick shell on the outside, with seeds and pulp on the inside.

Know your Pumpkins – Botany

  • Pumpkins generally weigh 9–18 lbs (4–8 kg) with the largest (of the species C. maxima) capable of reaching a weight of over 75 lbs (34 kg).
  • The pumpkin varies greatly in shape, ranging from oblate to oblong.
  • The rind is smooth and usually lightly ribbed.
  • Although pumpkins are usually orange or yellow, some fruits are dark green, pale green, orange-yellow, white, red and grey.
  • Pumpkins are monoecious, having both male and female flowers on the same plant.
  • The female flower is distinguished by the small ovary at the base of the petals.
  • These bright and colourful flowers have extremely short life spans and may only open for as short a time as one day.
  • The colour of pumpkins is derived from the orange pigments abundant in them.
  • The main nutrients are lutein and both alpha and beta carotene, the latter of which generates vitamin A in the body.

Know your Pumpkins – Varieties

  • There are a wide range of varieties falling into these categories:

Cucurbita Moschata


  • This group of primarily squash includes the pumpkins frequently used for commercially canned pumpkins.
  • Commercial pumpkin varieties usually have a tan-coloured skin.

Cucurbita Pepo


  • These are the Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins you carve on Halloween, as well as the cute little miniature pumpkins that fit in the palm of your hand.
  • The traditional Jack O’Lantern is a particular variety officially known as the Connecticut Field Pumpkin.
  • Some of the most popular varieties include:
    • Connecticut Field pumpkin
    • Howden pumpkin
    • Howden Biggie
    • Jack B. Little Miniature pumpkins

Cucurbita Maxima


  • Maxima, as it’s name implies, are the giant pumpkins.
  • Giant pumpkin growing has become a very popular hobby.
  • Giant pumpkin growers are among the most devoted, and perhaps fanatical of gardeners.
  • The uniqueness of this variety lies in its production of fruits more massive than those produced by any other plant in the world.
  • Fruit can exceed 6 feet (1.8 m) in diameter.
  • The heaviest Atlantic Giant on record weighed 1,810.5 pounds (821.2 kg) and was grown in Wisconsin in 2010.
  • Popular giant pumpkin varieties include:
    • Atlantic Giant pumpkin
    • Big Max pumpkins

Know your Pumpkins – Cuisine

  • Pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking.
  • Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves, and even the flowers.
  • In the United States, pumpkin is a very popular Halloween and Thanksgiving staple.
  • Although most people use store-bought canned pumpkin, homemade pumpkin purée can serve the same purpose.
October 28, 2010 / Malcolm Dalebö

How to tell whether mushroom is friend or foe – Telegraph

How to tell whether mushroom is friend or foe – Telegraph

October 27, 2010 / Malcolm Dalebö

Savour the flavour of garlic – Telegraph

This is a really great article on garlic that I want to share. Just click on the title line above to visit and see for yourself.

October 26, 2010 / Malcolm Dalebö

Worcester weather forecast – Met Office

Worcester weather forecast – Met Office

October 25, 2010 / Malcolm Dalebö

Discover Cowpea

  • The Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), aka Field Pea, is one of several species of the widely cultivated genus Vigna
  • Four cultivated subspecies are recognised:
    1. Vigna unguiculata subsp. cylindrica Catjang
    2. Vigna unguiculata subsp. dekindtiana African Cowpea
    3. Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis Yardlong bean
    4. Vigna unguiculata subsp. unguiculata Black-eyed pea
  • Cowpeas are one of the most important food legume crops in the semi-arid tropics covering Asia, Africa, southern Europe and Central and South America. 

Know your Cowpea – Common names

  • Cowpeacrowder peaclack-eyed peacouthern peaatimbawiniboemeboontjiecatjangcaupífrijol de vacafield peaimbumbaisihlumaya
  • A subcategory of field peas is crowder peas, so called because they are crowded together in their pods, causing them to have squarish ends.

Know your Cowpea – Botany

  • It is a herbaceous, prostrate, climbing, or sub-erect to erect legume, growing 15-80 cm high. 
  • Erect and bushy to prostrate and creeping growth habits exist depending on cultivar and growing conditions. 
  • Cowpeas develop strong root systems that have many spreading laterals in the surface soil. 
  • The stems have circular sections and are pock marked. They are sometimes slightly grooved and are glabrous. The texture is fibrous and hard, firm and not inflated when young. 
  • Leaves are alternate and trifoliolate and the leaflets are oval, pointed (6-15 cm x 4-11 cm). They are generally entire and sometimes lobed. 
  • Genotypes vary in the degree of pubescence, but all cultivated cowpeas are less glabrous than other legumes such as common bean and soybean. 
  • Stipules are spurred at the base, stipels are hardly visible. 
  • Inflorescence racemose, flowers white, cream, yellow, mauve or purple. 
  • Pods usually occur in pairs forming a V, and are non-dehiscent. 
  • Pod orientation is mostly pendant and vertical. 
  • Pod length ranges from 6.5-25 cm and the width ranges from 3-12 mm. 
  • Under warm conditions, pod development is rapid and may take only two weeks from pollination to pod maturation. 
  • Each pod holds from 8 to 20 seeds in a crowded orientation. 
  • Seed length is between 6-11 mm and the width is from 4-9 mm. The testa colour also varies from white, pinky-white, pink, tan, brown, and black. The hylum is often ringed black or brown, strongly contrasting with the shade of the testa and hence the name “blackeyed beans” of the Antilles. 
  • It is susceptible to frost. 
  • It is an annual. Some cowpea varieties may start flowering 30 days after sowing and are ready for harvest of dry seeds 25 days later; others may take more than 90 days to flower, and 210-240 days to mature. 

Know your Cowpea – Uses

  • Cowpea is one of the most important grain legumes in Africa and in parts of the Americas and Asia. 
  • In addition to its dry grain, fresh-shelled ‘peas’, fresh pods, and fresh and dried leaves and flowers are consumed in some regions. 
  • The plant is used as cut and carry forage, and for hay and silage. 
  • Cowpea forms highly effective associations with a wide range of native nitrogen fixing strains of Rhizobium bacteria and with mycorrhizae that allows the species to tolerate poor soils. 
  • Used as a green manure, it can be incorporated into the soil 8-10 weeks after sowing, and can provide the equivalent of 80 kg/ha N to a subsequent crop. 

Know your Cowpea – Origins

  • It is native of West Africa and cultivated throughout the tropics and subtropics between 40ºN and 30ºS at elevations between sea level and 2,000 metres. 
  • Occurs in areas with annual rainfall between 400-2000 mm and summer temperatures between 25-35°C. 

Know your Cowpea – Cultivation

  • Found on a wide range of very acid (pH 4) to strongly alkaline also low-fertility soils from sands to heavy, well-drained clays, with a preference for lighter soils. 
  • A drought-tolerant and warm-weather crop, cowpeas are well-adapted to the drier regions of the tropics, where other food legumes do not perform well. 
  • It does not tolerate extended flooding or salinity. 

  • Most cowpea accessions exhibit classic short-day responses with respect to time of flowering, although a range of sensitivities occur and the effect is modulated by temperature. 
  • It is mainly autogamous and in most environments outcrossing is low (less than 5%), but in the presence of bumble bees or other large insects, out-crossing can be much higher. 
  • Flowers open early in the morning, close by noon and may fall off during the same day. 
  • It also has the useful ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen through its root nodules, and it grows well in poor soils with more than 85% sand and with less than 0.2% organic matter and low levels of phosphorus. 
  • In addition, it is shade tolerant, and therefore, compatible as an intercrop with maize, millet, sorghum, sugarcane, and cotton. 
  • This makes cowpea an important component of traditional intercropping systems, especially in the complex and elegant subsistence farming systems of the dry savannas in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Know your Cowpea – Cuisine

  • Cowpeas are a common food item in the southern United States, where they are often called field peas
  • In Gujarati, these are called Chola/Chowla(ચોળા). In Marathi, these are called Chawali/Chavali(चवळी). (Kārāmani or Kārāmani Payir or Thatta Payir Tamil) are an integral part of the cuisine in southern region of India. 
  • In Tamilnadu during the Tamil month of Maasi (February) – Panguni (March) called Kozhukattai/Adai (steamed sweet cake) prepared with cooked and mashed cowpea bean mixed with jaggery, ghee and other sub ingredients. 
  • In Hindi, it is called ‘Lobhia’.
  • According to the USDA food database, cowpeas have the highest percentage of calories from protein among vegetarian foods.

October 24, 2010 / Malcolm Dalebö

Growing garlic

  • Garlic (Allium sativum) is one of the easiest and most satisfying crops you can grow. 
  • For best results start with a head of garlic bought from a reputable grower, or from a garden centre or gardening catalogue.
  • You can use garlic bought in a supermarket at a pinch, but the crop is very likely to be inferior. 
  • Traditionally garlic is planted on the shortest day of the year and harvested on the longest day of the year, but only use that as an indicator as even December is fine for planting, although then in most years it then takes until mid-July for the heads to be ready for lifting.

 How to grow Garlic – Crop Rotation

  • Garlic is a member of the Onion Family, and it is recommended that it should not be grown in the same soil as other family members for at least three years.

How to grow Garlic – Site and Soil

  • Garlic doesn’t need a very rich soil, but does prefer a free draining soil – if yours is heavy dig in some sand or plenty of organic matter like compost before planting.
  • Ideally, a deep, fertile, very well drained soil is needed. 
  • Add (and incorporate well) a good dressing of a general garden fertilizer before or at the time of sowing. 
  • Your soils pH must be above 6.0, ideally,  pH 6.5 -7.0. 
  • Unless you are gardening on limestone country, most soils will benefit from a liming at least a month or so before planting. 

How to grow Garlic – Planting Out

  • Break the head into individual cloves, and choose the biggest and fattest seed cloves, and sow them root end down, standing erect, and far enough in the soil that they are anything from 25mm (1 inch) to being 50 mm (2 inches) or so under the soil surface. 
  • Put them about 150 mm (6 inches) apart. 
  • If planting in rows then keep them 15cm (6 inches) apart to allow easy hoeing and hand-weeding later.
  • For some of the jumbo varieties you’ll need to increase this spacing, but for your standard garlic this will be fine. 
  • Plant with the flat end down the way – the new green shoot will emerge from the pointy end (a horticultural term) and by spring you’ll have a good few inches of growth. 
  • If you are troubled by crows or pigeons you may wish to net your newly planted cloves as the birds may lift them just for fun. 
  • Warm temperate areas – generally speaking, it can be planted in autumn through to early winter. 
    • Under warm temperate climatic conditions autumn planted garlic will remain dormant for a few weeks, then develop roots and a shoot. 
    • With the onset of the cold of winter growth is fairly slow until temperatures warm in spring. 
    • The cold of winter is needed to initiate the side buds that will ultimately grow and swell to become cloves (and in some types, to initiate the flower bud). 
    • The lengthening days of spring are the signal for the initiated but undeveloped side buds to start forming into cloves. 
    • It is possible to sow in early spring and get a reasonably good harvest, but everything is against you – wet, difficult to work soil; no early root growth; less exposure to winter chill. 
    • Early Spring is possible, but definitely a second choice.
  • Temperate areas– plant after the first good frosts of autumn. 
    • Spring planting is possible in the higher latitudes, as the longer day lengths promote bulbing, but the shorter season means the bulbs are often smaller. 
    • Autumn garlic will produce roots, but either no, or short, top growth. 
    • If the garlic sprouts have emerged, they will survive freezes and snowfalls, but they should be mulched heavily (about 15 cm/6 inches) to prevent heaving. 
    • Pull the mulch aside in spring. 
    • Autumn planted garlic will have strong roots by winters icy grip, and these roots will help prevent the ‘seed’ being pushed out of the ground as the soil alternately freezes and thaws (‘frost heave’). 

How to grow Garlic – Care & Cultivation

  • Once they have started growth in spring, give them regular – say fortnightly – very light side dressings of urea (or other high nitrogen fertilizer), spread 100 mm/6 inches either side of the plants. 
  • Some authorities encourage the application of sulfur to encourage healthy leaf growth. 
    • There is some evidence that the sulfur also assists in the formation of higher levels of allicin, the sulfur compound which is at the centre of the medicinal properties of garlic and also for the sulfurous combinations which make up garlic’s pungent aroma.
  • Liquid manures are also beneficial. 
  • Garlic competes poorly with weeds. Keep them as close to meticulously weeded as is possible. 
  • Be careful with the hoe; it is embarrassing to be responsible for a beautifully growing garlic plant being sliced off at soil level by a hurried hoe! 
  • If the weather is dry, mulch them to conserve water. 

How to grow Garlic – Watering

  • In the garden, garlic needs water in the early stages of growth (between March and June) and unbroken warmth.
  • No water will produced a poor crop because garlic, being a member of the allium family, is shallow-rooted and unable to seek out water from the depths.
  • Mulch is one way of maintaining an even moisture regime. 
    • Not enough moisture means that garlic does not develop a full sized bulb. 
    • Over watering results in garlic with poor keeping qualities – poor wrappers, burst skins and mould. 
    • Also, it is harder to cure garlic that has been over watered.

How to grow Garlic – Harvesting

  • Lift the bulbs as soon as the leaves begin to yellow, or when they lie prostrate on the soil.
  • If it is very wet near harvest time, consider lifting them a bit earlier and drying them under cover. 
  • Left in wet soil, the outer parchment often rots. 
  • If there is disease in the root plate, it may develop too far and cause the bulb to fall apart when it is lifted. 
  • Garlic “Rocambole” is almost always ready to harvest a month or so before common garlic. 
  • Always the state of the foliage is the indicator, not any particular date. 

How to grow Garlic – Storing & Preserving

  • Store garlic in a dry place, the kitchen is fine, and towards autumn (if there is still some left) check for soft bulbs (rotting internally), and sign of insect damage. 
  • Throw out damaged bulbs. 
  • The ideal storage conditions are temperatures of around 10C/50F, dry, and well ventilated.
  • Soft-neck garlic can be braided into strings of garlic that can hang in the pantry or kitchen, providing both convenience and a style statement, but also preserving healthy garlic heads.
  • Hard-necked garlic, or if you can’t be bothered to braid your soft-neck crop, can be tied together with string to provide the same effect.
  • Garlic strings, however they are constructed, will keep the garlic usable for up to two years.

October 23, 2010 / Malcolm Dalebö

Botany of garlic

  • There are many different kinds of garlic and they’re almost all different in size, color, shape, taste, number of cloves per bulb, pungency and storability. 
  • Most consumers aren’t aware of the many kinds since they seldom see more than one kind in the local supermarket. 
  • There are said to be over 600 cultivated sub-varieties of garlic in the world, although most of them are selections of only a handful of basic types that have been grown widely and developed their own characteristics over the centuries as local growing conditions changed.

  •  Botanists classify all true garlics under the species Allium sativum. There are two subspecies:
    1. Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon, the hard-necked varieties.
    2. Allium sativum var. sativum, the soft-necked varieties.
  • The hard-necked garlics were the original garlics and the soft-necked ones were developed or cultivated over the centuries by growers from the original hard-necks through a process of selection.
  • The latest research in 2003 shows that ten fairly distinct varietal groups of garlic have evolved.
    • Five very different hardneck varieties called:
      • Porcelain
      • Purple Stripe
      • Marbled Purple Stripe
      • Glazed Purple Stripe
      • Rocambole.
    • Three varieties of weakly bolting hardnecks that often produce softnecks:
      • Creole
      • Asiatic
      • Turban
    • Two distinct softneck varietal groups:
      • Artichoke
      • Silverskin
  • Dr. Gail Volk of the USDA in Colorado and Dr. Joachim Keller of the Institute of Plant Biology in Gaterslaben, Germany, independently performed DNA analysis of garlics and classified them in 2003. Previously it had been thought that there were only five varietal groups.
  • All of the hundreds of sub-varieties (separate cultivars) of garlic grown all over the world came from these ten basic groups or sub-varieties of hardnecks that evolved in the Caucasus Mountains between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. 
  • The individual characteristics of varieties have been altered over time by careful (or accidental) selection and changing growing conditions, such as soil fertility, rainfall, temperature, altitude, length and severity of winter, etc. as they spread across Asia and Europe.
  • The Asiatics and Turbans developed in the East, while the Creoles developed in Spain and southern France and Artichokes and Silverskins developed in Italy and elsewhere in Europe.