By Outdoor Afro Leader Zoe Polk
So many wonderful smells, tastes, sights and adventures come to mind when we think of October! We take long drives to view the fall foliage. We get excited in heading to farms and picking our first apple off the tree. We review family recipes in preparation for festive feasts. We relish in wrapping our favorite cozy REI scarf around us. And we to pay tribute to all the wonderful ways pumpkins add color and joy to our month.
Outdoor Afro took part in the seasonal fun by joining with local business Pollinate Farm and Garden for a day of pumpkin learning and carving. Pollinate is general store committed to supporting and expanding the community of people interested in growing their own food by providing tools, supplies, and educational support. In a class co-taught by Pollinate founder Yolanda Burell and Outdoor Afro Leader Zoë Polk participants learned about the importance of pumpkins, squash and gourds in African diaspora and how pumpkins are grown, consumed and carved. We remembered that in 1896, Booker T. Washington the first President of the Tukegee Institute, hired botanist George Washington Carver to run the Tukegee Institute’s agriculture department. Both men believed that by growing their own food, including pumpkins, freed slaves could become self reliant and improve their quality of life.
Outdoor Afros also talked about the pumpkin as a gourd, and its role African and Caribbean musical instruments. We examined and played a Ghanian xylophone and noted how the gourds underneath made the sound resonate when we hit the keys.
In addition, Yolanda provided keys to a successful pumpkin harvest, including tips on seed planting depth and spacing as well as soil temperature and fertilizing. While pumpkins generally need a lot of space to spread, Yolanda taught us how to build structures to grow pumpkins vertically when space is limited. With this grounding information, Outdoor Afros headed to Pollinate’s beautiful backyard for some pumpkin carving.
After carefully selecting our pumpkins, we got to work getting our hands dirty and emptying the insides.
Yolanda explained the importance of using every part of the pumpkin- at Pollinate they use the “seeds and innards” to feed their chickens. Other Outdoor Afros described their recipes for roasting pumpkin seeds and turning them into a delicious snack. Once the insides had been removed, we picked up our tools, including serrated knifes, picks, power drills and stencils to make our own unique design.
There were smiles all around. And at the end of the day, everyone left with pumpkin to light up their October and their door steps.