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Dakota Gardener: A pumpkin-on-a-stick

Pumpkin-on-a-stick is an ornamental eggplant that can be eaten in things like stir fries or used for fall decorating.

By Kelsey Deckert, horticulture agent

NDSU Extension - Burleigh and Morton Counties

Last week was a great reminder of the unpredictability of our weather in North Dakota. Many of us were hoping for a snow-free Halloween for trick-or-treating and not having to break out the winter gear to collect as many sugary treats as possible. I currently have sad-looking, snowed-covered pumpkins on the porch.

Gardeners were blessed with an extended growing season and now is a great time to reflect upon it. I wrote a column in the beginning of the year about New Year’s resolutions and trying something new in the garden.

As October ended, I reflected on how it is the month of all things pumpkin. There’s pumpkin spice, pumpkin carving, pumpkin patches, pumpkin this and pumpkin that. Let me tell you about another “pumpkin” to try next year that can be utilized during the spooky season.

Have you ever heard of pumpkin-on-a-stick? No, it’s not a type of fair food. As funny as it sounds, this is the name of a plant. A really fun plant to grow.

Pumpkin-on-a-stick is an ornamental eggplant. When the fruit develops, it starts out appearing like flat green tomatoes but will end up heavily ribbed and scarlet in color resembling mini pumpkins.

This plant can reach 3 to 4 feet tall and spread from 2 to 3 feet wide with strong stems and large leaves. Grown just like tomatoes and peppers, you need to start seeds indoors.

Pumpkin-on-a-stick can be transplanted outside after the danger of frost has past and night time temperatures are about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a heat-loving plant and will benefit from plastic mulch. Be cautious when working around and harvesting the plant due to the thorns on the stems and leaves.

If you choose to consume pumpkin-on-a-stick you will want to harvest them while the fruits are green and the skin is shiny. They are popular in stir fries and prepared similarly to other eggplants.

If grown for decorations, chilly fall weather will encourage the change in color. Harvest before frost strikes. Pumpkin-on-a-stick will need to be dried for decorations. Group the stems in bunches and hang them in a well-ventilated area that is out of the sun. Once the stems and leaves are dried, you can remove the leaves and use the pumpkin-on-a-stick plants in any fall decoration.

Give it a try next year and add one more type of “pumpkin” to your garden.

For more information about growing pumpkin-on-a-stick, contact your county NDSU Extension agent. Find the Extension office for your county at ndsu.ag/countyoffice.

NDSU Agriculture Communication – Oct. 31, 2023

Source: Kelsey Deckert, 701-221-6865, kelsey.j.deckert@ndsu.edu

Editor: Kelli Anderson, 701-231-7881, kelli.c.anderson@ndsu.edu



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