I recently finished reading Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever, by Susan Warren [seemingly out of print; amazon kindle | library]. It was a co-worker’s recommendation which I thoroughly enjoyed. In spite of being a gardening book, the real appeal of it I think are the people it describes, who are quirky, obsessive and interesting – of course, since I literally can’t imagine any other kind of person committing so much time, energy and money to the quest to grow 1500 lb pumpkins. These people could be engaged in any offbeat activity and it would probably be just as compelling.
One thing I learned from the book, which I have never been totally clear on, is how fruits in the squash family (pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, zucchini) get fertilized. Plants have male and female flowers, and it you’re paying attention to your plants you’ll probably notice the difference.
You can really tell how people came up with the male and female designation for flowers. Ahem. So the male flowers grow on thin, spindly stalks that look like normal leaf stems only slightly slimmer. They have a protuberance (perfect application for that word) in the centre of the flower where the pollen is. Continue reading