Late in the growing season, when the temperature soared above 100° regularly and when the rains didn't visit at all, a volunteer vine sprouted at the southern edge of my garden, defying all odds. I thought perhaps it was a cantaloupe, or even a watermelon, as the leaves grew large and shaded the inner stem, hiding its working from view.
What was it? I asked Marie Eby. She and her husband operate nearby Tom's Maze & Pumpkin Farm, a corn maze, and Marie sells gourds of great variety. I expected that this plant grew from a seed from one of the quantity of gourds she gave us last year. We enjoyed cushaws, acorn squash, spaghetti squash and an assortment of odd-looking things which surely have a name but which I am ignorant about. Still, we enjoyed each one, baking most, cooking a few and having dish after fall dish.
But pumpkins were not among them.
When the vine formed its first fruit, the sides were deeply grooved. I expected this would develop into one of those large round gourds, flat and bulbous and of a variety of colors: greens, yellows, oranges. I began watering the poor plant with my hose, thinking that anything which attempts to begin its life in August must surely deserve a little help.
The spot this vine devloped is in the area where I regularly dig my compost holes. So garbage from one of our meals last fall surely provided the seed for this plant.
It didn't take long for the fruit to begin to enlarge. Initially they had a light lemon-yellow hue. While large yellow flowers blossomed everywhere, only five of the fruits actually set and began to develop. The rest naturally aborted as the flowers died.
Those gourds which remained grew larger and deepened their color to a soft yellow. When they reached a diameter of about 4", growth stopped and the color deepened to orange. Today, as the vine begins to dry (though only around the edges), I picked the first and sat it on the kitchen windowsill.
It's a "great" Pinehaven miniature pumpkin! And it's arrived just in time for fall festivities and Halloween. Marie tells me that due to the nature of hybrids, the seeds from other gourds can produce surprises, something altogether different from the mother plant. And that, I have to believe, is what happened here.
Added 09/19/12: Last night we had our first frost - summer, yet! - and the poor pumpkin vine is a sorry, wilted mess late this afternoon. I cut the other four miniature pumpkins from the vine and Mom washed them. We'll give one to Bob, one to Mae and Charlie and have three here for a Halloween/Thanksgiving display. And so this year's growing season ends.