Why are bees important to the Halloween pumpkin? – Helen Tandy

Drivers on the A41 in Chester the afternoon of Saturday 29th October, were surprised to see three giant bees crossing the road with pumpkins. Why was this? The bees (including me) were members of Chester & District Friends of the Earth, we had been at The Piper Hoole as part of The Food
Assembly’s Halloween Harvest Fayre.
We have been campaigning through the summer to save the bees and over the last few weeks they have also been campaigning to rescue pumpkins from being wasted through Hubbubs Pumpkin Rescue.
Pumpkin Rescue is part of a Zero Food Waste Britain which outlines five principles to tackling food waste and has been developed by Unilever and Hubbub. Hubbub states that 18,000 tonnes of edible pumpkin ends up in the bin each year, see our blog.

How to eat pumpkin 
The main thing we have been asked is about those pumpkin sold as carving pumpkins, these can still be used for cooking. The flesh of the larger the pumpkins will have less flavour, so use these for cooking with more spice e.g. soups, curry and cakes. The smaller pumpkins for pies and breads. The guts can be used the make a broth or mulled wine although I have not personally tried this. The seeds you can roast and use for granola see below or save them to grow your own next year.

Why are bees important to pumpkins?

The flowers on a pumpkin plant are either female or male, unlike the flowers of many plants, which contain both male and female parts inside the same blossom. The female has a bump under the blossom which becomes a pumpkin, but only if the flower is successfully pollinated. They need the bee to do it’s job getting the pollen from the male flower to the female flower, then the tiny bump at the base of the female flower will grow into a big, orange pumpkin! Therefore it’s important to the pumpkin and this Halloween tradition of pumpkin lanterns that we save our bees…
Bees pollinate 75% of our main food crops worldwide, including some of our favourite produce like apples, strawberries and tomatoes, Scientists estimate that it would cost over £1.8 billion every single year to pollinate UK crops by hand.
I bought my pumpkins from a local farm this year, but might try to grown my own next year. You can grow from seed April to June and rather than buy seeds you could use some of this years pumpkin seeds… see below… If you want to grown some different varieties this BBC web site provides growing tips and suggests five varieties to try.
• ‘Hundredweight’ – true to its name this pumpkin is big, it has bright orange skin and needs lots of watering to grow evenly and to its maximum size
• ‘Crown prince’ – more unusual in shape and colour, this grey skin pumpkin has orange flesh and is ideal for cooking with
• ‘Jack of all trades’ – ideal for Halloween lanterns, this pumpkin stores well and also cooks well
• ‘Rouge Vif D’Estampes’ – has a strong ornamental shape with red ribbed skin and moist orange flesh, also known as the ‘Cinderella’ pumpkin
• ‘Baby Bear’ – a golden orange fruit, its seeds can be roasted and eaten. Also great for making pumpkin pies.
How do I save seeds to grow my own next year?
It’s suggested you save the biggest seeds as they have the best chance of germinating. Save three times more seeds than the number of plants you aim to grow. Place the rinsed seeds spread out on a dry paper towel, place in a cool dry spot for one week. Once the seeds are dry store the seed in an envelope. It suggested the best place is in the fridge. Put the envelopes in a plastic container. Place several holes in the lid of the container to ensure that condensation doesn’t build up on the inside. Place the container with the seeds t the very back of the fridge.
Pumpkin and Honey Recipes
As homage to the hard work of the bee in pollinating the pumpkins I thought I would look for some recipes which I could adapt, to combine my pumpkin insides and honey from the hardworking bee. I’m always looking for recipes which are vegan, having a work colleague, friends and clients who are vegan, I don’t want them to always miss out.…

Pumpkin Pie Energy Balls

Ingredients
1 cup oats or oat flour
1 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup pumpkin purée
3 tablespoons honey (use more or less depending upon your taste)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
vanilla extract (splash of)
1 pinch salt
chocolate (optional – melted)

Method
Combine oats and almonds in a food processor and pulse few times so almonds are chopped finely into small pieces. Add the rest of the ingredients until well combined. Add more pumpkin puree and honey if the mixture looks dry.

Take about 1 heaping tablespoon of mixture and form them into a ball. Continue with rest of the mix.

You can drizzle or dip some in melted chocolate and let them air dry for 10-15 minutes.

Store them in the refrigerator to chill and harden.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
Ingredients
455 grams butter softened
370 grams brown sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons mixed spice
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
910 grams flour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or 2 tbsps. lemon juice to 1 1/2 cups milk)
1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée

cooking spray
2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons butter (softened)
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
food colouring (optional)
Method
Preheat the oven to 190 Celsius.

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs, molasses, and honey and mix well.

Sift the salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and flour. Mix the vanilla with the buttermilk and pumpkin in a separate bowl.

Add the pumpkin mixture and the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in three sections, alternating. Slowly mix to incorporate.

Fill cakes 3/4 full and bake for 35 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Remove from oven and allow to cool before decorating.

Sift the confectioners sugar and mix with the butter, milk, and extract. Add food colouring if desired.
Top cupcakes with frosting.

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