When I was growing up in a small town in the North Island of New Zealand, my religious father used to tell me that all sorts of things were forbidden on a Sunday, like buying ice creams when we were out on our Sunday afternoon drives. Whenever we asked for one, he'd gasp and say, "not on a Sunday!" as if it was the ultimate in sinfulness, to be found referenced in some hidden part of the Bible which I hadn't yet got around to, but my father had no doubt uncovered during his deep studies of John, Paul and the others. I realise now of course, it was just his frugal ways, but it took many years before I stopped looking sideways at the sinners brazenly licking ice creams on a hot Sunday afternoon.
So what my dad would've made of me leaping out into the garden on a wet Sunday morning to procreate, I have no idea. And this post is about to get very grubby indeed, so parents, if you haven't yet had the birds and the bees talk with your prepubescent children, I'd shield them from this post, unless you are okay about me giving them a wee Science Lesson. Haha.
I have a bit of a thing for pumpkins. Not just any old pumpkin. I have many pumpkins growing in my patch, which will be perfect for pumpkin soup, or if I was American, pumpkin pie, almost enough to supply everyone I know. But this year I am raising a special kind of pumpkin, purely for its seed, which I like to eat raw. You might wonder, why I am going to so much trouble, but have you seen the price of organic pumpkin seeds lately? It's cheaper to get them from China, and even then, I practically need to ring the bank to extend my mortgage even if I am going to buy those, let alone the beautiful large pumpkin seeds locally sourced, which of course are preferable, food miles and all that.
So what's a girl to do, except to take matters into her own hands, as it were, when she's hanging out for some? (Pumpkin seeds, that is). And all would be pretty straightforward if it wasn't for the bees. Because what the bees do is fly around the garden, pollinating things. They flit from male flower to female flower getting bits of pollen on their little leggies and spreading it all around. And no pumpkin is safe for a radius of two kilometres. They could've been getting pollen from my seed pumpkin and ruining the flesh from that other kind of pumpkin all over the neighbourhood, and getting pollen from the pumpkin where you eat the flesh and putting it on the flowers of my seed pumpkins and ruining them.
female pumpkin flower has plump pumpkin fruit forming at base of flowerSo that's where I've had to intervene. I have been keeping an eye on those pumpkins, peeking out from under my curtains for any sign of readiness for that kind of thing. And what the sign is, is those great big yellow flowers. But you have to know the difference between the male and the female flowers and here's how to tell: the male has a long thing sticking up.
Bearing in mind that the bees are out there doing their thing any time between 6.30am and 11am spreading all manner of things, you have to be early. So imagine my surprise when I went out at the crack of dawn, to see several large yellow flowers from my prize pumpkin plants, as seen here. And on closer inspection, I could clearly see there were both male and female flowers.
"male part, meet female part!"I carefully removed a male flower from the plant and removed all the outer petals so that all that was left practically was only the protruding male part. Then I opened the female flower and poked around a bit, making sure that the male part had been well rubbed all over the female part. Sorry to those of delicate disposition for such graphic details, but there really is no way around it. You have just witnessed pumpkin sex.
But I didn't stop there. I then closed the flower with a rubber band, for my work was done, and covered it with a paper bag. This is in case Mr Bumble Bee, who had clearly been having a Sunday lie-in, didn't realise that Ms Pumpkin flower, was already with child as it were, and tried to pollinate from the male flower of another nearby (non-eating-seed) pumpkin, which would produce not quite the result we want, as mentioned a couple of paragraphs earlier: some kind of hybrid pumpkin which is no good for seeds or flesh.
Now all that is left to do is watch and wait. I am waiting for those pumpkins to grow, ripen, and then to be able to eat the seeds of course. And in the meantime, I am out there in the garden eagerly watching like a supervisor at a school disco, waiting for any sign of male and female pumpkin flowers at the ready...