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(post, Dave Taube)
I was puttering around in my garden last summer when I noticed a sprawling vine meandering between my tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and herbs. I traced one of the tentacles back to its origin and as I grabbed the stem and started to pull it out, a thought occurred to me. Maybe this vine is a zucchini or a cucumber. Maybe it's another type of squash, perhaps a butternut or acorn, or some other plant that had dropped its seeds in a previous year. Or maybe it was an odd hybrid of one of the above. A cucchini or a zucumber, perhaps. How about an acornut? Certainly it wasn't a buttcorn. I continued pulling the numerous weeds that were popping up almost as fast as I could pull them and decided to spare the life of this plant. Weeks went by and the plant prospered and grew. Every once in a while I noticed an orange flower on the plant, but I didn't see any vegetables. I was starting to think that my mystery plant was indeed a hybrid of two squashes and was not going to produce anything worth eating. Then one day, I moved some leaves and was startled to see a beautiful light green orb the size of a softball. "Aha!" I said to myself. Now I was glad that I hadn't pulled out the plant, but I was still curious to see what type of vegetable it had yielded. As I was harvesting the bounty of my garden over the next few weeks, I sort of forgot about my alien invader. The plant and its lone product grew bigger and bigger, probably as a result of my lack of attention. At the end of September, I was cleaning up my garden and decided to take a look at the enigma. And was I surprised! The orb had grown to the size of a basketball and was starting to take on an faint orange hue. Finally I knew the identify of the mystery plant. It was a pumpkin. We bought a pumpkin and I carved an intricate design on it for the kids, but I was far prouder of the pumpkin that came from my garden. It sat by our front door for two months before nature got the better of it. I scooped up the decaying remains and tossed them into my compost bin. In a few weeks, I'm going to scatter my compost in my garden. And this year, if I have a sprawling vine in my garden in an area where I didn't plant any squashes, I'll know what it is.