Deconstructed Pumpkin Juice Chai

When it comes to garden design, start with your largest crop. The one that takes up the most space, then work backwards from there. Also consider doubling the space it takes.

One year we grew Butternut Squash out of the compost pile (that voluptuous looking squash at the front of the photo below) and it spread. Then it spread some more. Then it grew up and over the 30' spruce tree onto the phone line.

Plan for space-takers, especially when it comes to squash. That is at least what I tell all my students. Rarely, do I follow my own advice. Just ask my husband, Dan. I always forget to plan for pumpkins, which means they never have enough space.

Lots and lots of pumpkins from a couple of years ago. In the front behind the tall white candle is Lady Godiva, to the right Butternut then behind Rouge Vif D'Etamps. 'Jack' for the Jack-o-Lanterns.

The pumpkins I plant and use in our Harry Potter inspired Pumpkin Juice Chai are a French heirloom from 1883 called 'Rouge Vif D'Etamps' the vivid red one from Etamps. They are big, flat and full of flavour. Often called "Cinderella" or "Fairytale" in North America, we have Burpee's to thank for they were the first to introduce this variety to North American markets and it is a staple in our garden (I usually have some seeds for sale in the Spring if you so desire).

This is how we deconstruct and grow our gourd-geous pumpkins for our popular Pumpkin Juice Chai:

Plant more than 8 plants to get what you need

This year I planted 8 beautiful transplants. At the One Acre Garden (which is actually just 1/4 acre, but it has room for growth!) things didn't get planted until mid-June as it was such a cool spring. Mum's back 2 acres is a mess of over grown goldenrod, grass and angry ant hills. We haven't spent enough time cultivating it as I live/work in Hamilton/Burlington and she is near Coldwater and we don't have a rototiller. It is clay. The idea was to plant the pumpkins without much competition in the spring and the leaves would out compete the weeds. Boy was I wrong. We should have planted so many more. But we had a decent crop. I should have known that I would take on too much this summer (I have a habit of doing that) and that I would only end up with one pumpkin. Of the six that formed, one didn't ripen (six), two were obligatory sacrifices to the field mice / raccoons (five-four), two were rotten (three-two) and one was left for drying.

Preparing Pumpkin for Chai

Assemble your finest sword made by the dwarves of the north, and a chopping board felled from elder wood:

  • Chop pumpkin (takes approximately 6 hours)

  • Save seeds / roast seeds

  • Dehydrate pumpkin (2 days)

Dehydrating Pumpkin

Todd. Yes, I named the pumpkin. Sweeny Todd: The Demon Pumpkin of Baker Street. When you spend a whole season with your baby, tending to its every need, making sure it has just the right amount of sunlight, you put up with a lot of bullshit (ie. in my case, mountains of sheep manure are what's best for baby). You get attached. You then get mad at yourself for not planting enough and luckily the farmer down the street has a penchant for weird pumpkins too. You go dark by hour 6 chopping pumpkins and watching Riverdale. Making sure each chop is clean and your pieces are no longer a detectable pumpkin but small nickle sized pieces. You then slowly, very slowly dehydrate that pumpkin at 135°F watching it dessicate into small florescent orange pieces with a slight caramel flavour. So twisted.

So, the stats:

  • One-15 lbs Rouge Vif D'Etamps French Heirloom Pumpkin (fresh weight) [originally purchased from Baker Creek Seeds; saved seed from 2018] (2.27 Kg)

  • Dehydrated at 135°F for 6 hours [four cycles]

  • Dry weight = 468 grams.

Water percentage to drive out: For fruit you need to drive out 80% of the water; for veg, it’s 95%.

  • % Moisture = 79.36 [good enough as I threw in some desiccant packets to help with the 0.64 units]

  • 200 grams per 2.5 kg tea

  • Batch ID: 2019--6403

  • Leftover: 268 grams, enough for 2.5 kg (we are half sold of the 6403 batch and PJC is a year round tea)

Caption: L → R (clockwise): 1. Late September at the One Acre Garden. Best angle as the opposite sides were chewed out; 2. Red Kuri Squash from the RBG Junior Master Gardener's allotment that I started and continues to flourish. It is also where my obsession with pumpkins started. I blame the children.; 3. Pumpkin Juice Chai label has a flare for the heirloom dramatics; 4. Pumpkin seeds are yummy. We use pepitas which are from a completely different variety called Lady Godiva (naked seeds!); 5. The result is our Pumpkin Juice Chai; 6. One beautiful Rouge Vif D'Etamps grown by moi!; and 7. Random aweful pumpkins that were sacrificial but the photo is awesome. I play in dirt and love it.

Round 2

I am confident that I have enough pumpkin to get me through the "holiday that shall not be named". Last year I only needed 300 grams, but economies of scale are happening and Geek+Tea is as popular as ever! Thank you! So yes, I bought another pumpkin from the neighbour and this week is round 2 of chopping. I've melted two dehydrators since starting this business 6 years ago and have borrowed my friend's that is a much better quality. Making sure to leave at least a night between drying batches allows the machine to cool off properly. It does mean that it will take at least 4 days to dehydrate one pumpkin. I may have to go to Lee Valley and buy my own (and you can get replacement trays!) as the bulk of what I do to prepare ingredients for tea is dehydrating. #christmaswishlist I'm sure she wants it back by now at the height of preserving season.

The process. One four tray dehydration for 6 hours yields only a quarter of a 1.5 L mason jar. One full pumpkin is 48

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Why tag us? People can use the hashtags to search through content on our blog and hopefully they will be inspired to try growing their own pumpkins or tasting our teas and we can inspire a whole new generation of farmers / market gardeners. I know, shameless promotion. But what are you waiting for? Go ahead and #hashtag away!


We grow and blend geeky organic teas to celebrate the geek and nerd in everyone of us and we aim to misbehave by inspiring adventure, with respect for our planet.

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