All in the family for the pumpkin harvest

All in the family

A story about a dedicated family that take pumpkin growing seriously. From seed to soil to table.

An interesting story about a family who has kept a family tradition alive. Known as ‘Ta Brodu‘ meaning ‘Of the soup’, they harvest pumpkins from year to year. Not surprisingly pumpkin is a common winter staple for soups but also popular in pies and rice dishes.

Not only is it admirable that they keep the family tradition alive, they also plant the pumpkins with the actual seeds of the pumpkins they harvested the year before. Certainly a way of keeping the circle of life. Our Maltese Mediterranean sun helps too as one can appreciate the dense and rich profile of their pumpkins.

“We’re picking pumpkins. This harvest will get us through the rest of the year. We will sow the seeds once again next year, in February. It’s important to store these far away from any rats or mice. And make sure that the place is not humid and that there is not ice around. It must be kept dry. We cover it in plastic because of the humidity. If it doesn’t rot, then it may last up until April of next year. In the past, they used to dry the pumpkin and leave it on the roof. Nowadays, not everybody has access to the roof and the cold temperatures may ruin everything.

We harvest the seeds here, in Wied il-Pwales. Back in the day, this place used to be full of different types of pumpkins. This is a squash: the skin is white. It contains compounds that could benefit diabetic people. It is largely used to make soups and broths. Then, there is the pumpkin which can be found in the other part of the field. That is mostly used for pies and broths and soups as well.

The round pumpkins have a hole in the middle whereas the marrows are solid. What you can see here, all this, grew from our own seeds. When you sow the seeds outdoors, the pumpkin doesn’t last more than 3 months. I know all this from my parents, who were skilled farmers, and from experience. I hope that my children will continue this work. If you love Nature, then you will certainly agriculture and fieldwork.

These pumpkins were once seeds. In fact, the seeds are first planted in pots and remain there for three weeks. Then, you lay out a black plastic sheet in the field and install a drip irrigation system. I then sow seeds that were growing in the pot. At the beginning of March, we then make some holes in the plastic sheet so that plant can grow larger. Exposure to wind is important so that the vine is dry and the pumpkin can be easily cut. Once you cut it down, you have to store it away because it will be stolen.

Our day starts at around 6.30am. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, we, the three siblings, take our produce to Ta’ Qali Farmers’ Market. Other family members come to lend us a helping hand. When we go tTa’ Qali, we have to wake up earlier, at about 3am. We spend a whole day there. Even on Sundays and public holidays, I still come here, even if it’s just for two hours. But I still want to come and have a look.

The number of locals working in the fields is growing smaller. It’s also difficult to find people to work as vendors at Ta’ Qali because they say that the hours are too long. Ours is a family business: it’s been passed on from one generation to another. The three of us started working with our father and we’re still here, working together, putting to good use the lessons that he taught us. It’s hard work but reaping the fruits of our labour is an immense satisfaction. As you can see, our children are of a great help. When they’re not at school, they come here because they love helping out…unless they are glued to their phones.”

Mark, David, Eżekjel – “Ta’ Brodu” 

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