By NORMAN M. COVERT
(FREDERICK, Md.) – This Halloween story is a cross between Linus waiting for The Great Pumpkin and Seymour, the flesh eating monster plant from the movie, “Little Shop of Horrors.” The subject of this tale has captured the curiosity of the neighborhood and boasts monster pumpkins from the Seymouresque tendrils threatening the Japanese maple.
It would appear The Great Pumpkin has already arrived fulfilling Charles Shulz’s cartoon expectations minus the toys. This is perfect Halloween decoration.
It all begins in Mrs. Rabideau’s first grade class at our Orchard Grove Elementary School last May. Grandson Nicholas was agog at the possibilities of his teacher’s science experiment seeking answers to which medium might be best for growing fertile seeds. She chose three Pumpkin seeds and three bean seeds for each pupil.
Mrs. R’s thesis was that three possibilities existed for the germination of these common plants. It resulted in Nicholas bringing home plastic baggies and two small cups boasting healthy young seedlings.
The baggies sealed with the seeds encased in a wet paper towel actually exhibited a small but unproductive green feeler. The baggie with just moisture was unproductive.
Granddad had already planted three green pepper plants and two tomato plants in the 20-square-foot mini-plot, just away from the porch and sidewalk. Nicholas had chosen Marigolds and multi-colored Petunias for accent. We were hopeful they, too, would be successful in the old fashioned way.
However, consider the zeal of a first grader, plants in hand declaring, “I want to plant them now!” The baggie experiments languished on the window sill in the kitchen.
With Granddad’s inability to cite reasons against his demand, Nicholas planted them, exactly in the middle of Granddad’s experiment.
Within a week you could see it happening. The beans stood their ground, growing vertically no more than three feet high, two feet across oblivious of the contemporary Seymour.
The pumpkin plant multiplied like a weed, its tendrils reaching for every inch of dirt, requiring a wire frame within two weeks. Three weeks later it was obvious the tomatoes and the green peppers had to go, excepting the Jalapeno plant, which always sneaks in unbeknownst to us at the cashier. Ultimately it withstood the onslaught.
But The Great Pumpkin reached far and wide, requiring daily attention to keep it off the sidewalk. It sneaked into the bush roses and no remedy was available, especially when we could see the first pumpkin baby begin to grow rapidly up front. It wasn’t long before we discovered two other pumpkins sprouting seemingly from nowhere.
We have begun giving tours of the plant, which reached four feet high and extends a good 30 feet west. It has a shoot which ultimately has grown up and over the Japanese maple to the opposite side and at this writing boasts at least three young pumpkins, neither of which is likely to reach any semblance of maturity because their sheer weight will cause them to drop off the vine. Jack Frost also is lurking.
So Nicholas and family have harvested the three monster pumpkins and they reside on the front porch. Two will probably be turned into Jack-o-lanterns the other is already reserved for the oven.
We downloaded a great recipe last Halloween and followed the directions on turning such a pumpkin into pies. The seeds will be extracted and roasted at a later date. This Seymour’s flesh will be extracted from the rind after a bit of coaxing in the oven.
We will fill the mixing bowl with the pumpkin, add required spices and sugars and condensed milk; Nicholas and Granddad will put a bit of muscle in it and fill the eager pie crust with the pumpkin “slurry.” The 425 degree oven will then turn it into golden brown delight.
Thanks to Mrs. Rabideau, we harvested a few beans, but mostly will be able to tame this Seymour pumpkin plant and turn it into dessert heaven, accompanied by either a bit of vanilla ice cream or Cool Whip™.
The Great Pumpkin? We are ready for an encore.
(Afterword: The tomatoes and green peppers were moved to large pots where they withered in the summer sun and became food for a variety of insects and squirrels. “Oh the horror!” – ©Norman M. Covert 2011, all rights reserved.)
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This column also appears at www.thetentacle.com and is printed with the permission of the author and The Octopus, LLC.