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Kakai pumpkins and tomato apple chutney, oh my!

seed saving of the kakai

What to do before the weather dips below zero degrees and damages the still-green tomatoes dangling from your plants?

What to do when you want to help farmers and gardeners grow beautiful heirloom pumpkins next year?

kakai pumpkin intro

Well let me tell you!

Last week we had the pleasure of hosting volunteers from ING Direct Canada  for the day. And boy, did we need them with a full-day of harvest activities at both Winchester and Sprucecourt!

ing team fantastic!

Tasha, Alycia, Jen and Dwayne were wonderful volunteers and I know the children really appreciated their company.

comparing pumpkin seeds

In the morning we brought these beautiful Kakai Pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo) that we procured from our pals at Chocosol to a grade 3 & 4 class at Winchester P.S.. Kakai pumpkins are a Japanese or Austrian variety (depending on who you ask) with gorgeous green and orange stripes, easy to carve skin that are perfect for children’s little hands, and hull-less dark green seeds that are coveted for pumpkin oil production and very tasty to eat!

sorting seeds and making pumpkin mush

The students got their hands dirty removing the pulp and sorting the seeds out in order to engage in the age old activity of seed saving. These seeds are going to be dried and given to Chocosol farmers and gardeners so that that they may grow these pumpkins out on a grander scale. Apparently these seeds go quite well with cocoa. Mmmmmmm.

kakai carving

It was fun to also design the carvings.

designing carving


One of the students even found a kakai pumpkin sprout growing inside!

kakai pumpkin seed sprout!

Scar face kakai pumpkin!

scar face pumpkin

At the end of the pumpkin session I got the students to estimate how many more pumpkins we could potentially grow. If you start out with 5 pumpkins, and end up with approximately, oh let’s say, 1500 seeds, how many pumpkin plants will you end up with? And if each plant produced 5 pumpkins each, how many pumpkins will you end up with in total?!!?!? I like to incorporate mathematics when I can. (GO MULTIPLICATION!)

kakai seeds & maths!

In the afternoon, the ING team and I were able to work in the Sprucecourt staff kitchen with a group of grade 1 & 2 ESL students making tomato apple chutney, using green tomatoes from the school’s garden.  We also planted some plum trees of the Prunus domestica variety, a gorgeous dark purple or yellow specimen. So fun! Even when the onions’ fumes made a bunch of us cry, we still toughened up and kept going.

cutting onions and crying about it!

How to use knives 101.

tomato apple chutney making

Prepping the tomatoes, apples, onions and garlic!

making chutney

Green tomatoes from the Sprucecourt school garden!

green tomatoes from the sprucecourt garden!

Adding onions and garlic!

adding onions & garlic to pot!

Adding brown sugar!

adding brown sugar!

Mixing some spices in!


Ready to cook down!

ready to cook!

A good day’s work I say and all around good times! Shout out to: Tasha, Dwayne, Alycia and Jenn from ING Direct Canada; Ivan and Michael from Chocosol; and Lauren, Mable, David, Cassie, and Liz.


The children at Sprucecourt ate the chutney on crackers the next day! Yum!

And we got this lovely e-mail from one of the Sprucecourt teachers that I have to share:

Hey Sunday,

I just wanted to thank you and Xuan-Yen for the “Chutney” workshop with the kids on Wednesday at Sprucecourt.  They had a wonderful time with the experience and we got some great writing (and tasting) opportunities out it.  My students loved it and were talking about it for the next two days.  Xuan-Yen, it was wonderful working with you.  I would love copies of those pictures when you get a chance to put up on our bulletin board.  I took some more of them writing the steps and ingredients out and tasting it.  If you are interested I can send them your way. 

Also, we would be open to any other workshops before the big freeze ends the season.  If not, definitely in the spring.

All the best,

                   David Cunningham

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