Monthly Archives: February 2015

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin Book Review

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G. Brian Karas is a charming book with several great teaching opportunities.  The story is about Mr. Tiffen’s elementary school class and what they learn about pumpkins, math and other great life lessons.  Mr. Tiffen brings in 3 pumpkins, one small, one medium and one large.  He wants to know how many seeds are in each pumpkin.  Does the size of the pumpkin make a difference?  The underlying theme of the story is about being small.  Is being small a bad thing?  Everyday Mr. Tiffen lines up the class from the tallest child to the shortest child.  The shortest child in the class is Charlie and he feels bad because he is always at the end of the line.

How Do We Count How Many Seeds in A Pumpkin?

Mr. Tiffen wants his class to guess how many seeds are in each pumpkin.  This task brings in the concept of estimation.  He provides a hands-on experience where the children actually take all the seeds out of each pumpkin.  Of course, this is a very messy, slimy job as anyone knows who has taken the seeds out of a pumpkin.  The class did a good job though and got all the seeds out.  Then for homework they had to think about how to count all the seeds.

Ideas on How to Count the Seeds

The children came up with the idea to do skip counting, that is to count by 2’s, 5’s or 10’s.  So they count the largest pumpkin’s seeds by 2’s, the medium’s by 5’s and the smallest by 10’s.  This is a very concrete math lesson on counting, skip counting and how skip counting in the end makes it easier to count all the seeds. If you order the seeds in groups then it makes it easier.  Just imagine if you lose your place half way through and you have to start over.  If the seeds are in groups it is faster to count them again.

The Smallest Pumpkin Has the Most Seeds!

The smallest pumpkin has the most seeds which surprised everyone in the class.  This is a help to Charlie, the shortest kid in the class, because he says, “Small things can have a lot going on inside them.”  This is a wonderful lesson for him to learn!

There are several good learning experiences that are brought alive in this book:

  1. Simple facts about pumpkins
  2. Mathematical concepts become more real:  counting, estimating, skip counting
  3. Children experience the benefits of using these counting methods.
  4. Positive emotional feelings about being small
  5. Advantages of working together as a group
  6. Good tactile experiences as they clean out the pumpkins

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? is a great story and classroom activity for elementary age school children.  For more details see The Pumpkin Project:  Math, Science and Fun.  If you would like to order a book click on the image below.


Mexican Sour Gherkin

Mexican Sour Gherkins CucumbersThe Mexican Sour Gherkin is gaining great popularity at farmers’ markets.  Here they are nestled with cherry tomatoes, so you can get an idea of their size.  They are also known as mouse watermelons, cucamelons and sandiita (Spanish for little watermelon).  They are called mouse watermelons because they actually look like a watermelon on the outside ( but not on the inside) and they are the perfect size for a mouse!  I have even heard them called Barbie watermelons.  The Latin name is Melothria Scabra and they are native to Mexico and Central America.  For a fun and delicious experiment I recommend that you try these.  There is a link to buy seeds later in this post.

How Did I Discover the Mexican Sour Gherkin?

We were having lunch with a friend who said:

“You must try these Mouse Watermelons in your garden.  They also go by the name of the Mexican Sour Gherkin.  My aunt saw them at a farmer’s market in New York selling for $20 a pound.  So she got some seeds and sent them to me and asked me to grow them.  They are so prolific and so cute and so delicious.  My niece calls them cucumber jelly beans!”

Growing and Eating Mouse Watermelons!

I thought they sounded so interesting so I also got some seeds and planted them.  My first batch did not make it.  I think they didn’t have enough water to get started.  They do have a slow start but once they take off they produce lots of fruits. The second batch of seeds did very well and we had Mexican Sour Gherkins until the first frost.  Once they are established they are drought and pest resistant.

Mexican Sour Gherkin Just Starting to GrowThey start off very small as you can see from this picture.  Then they grow to the size of a large grape.  They need a lot of sun.

You can buy these Mexican Sour Gherkin seeds from Amazon.  Use them in salads, sauteed vegetables dishes and pickle them.  I used them in a red quinoa salad and they added a lot to the beauty and taste of the salad. They have a mild cucumber/lemon taste with a refreshing crunch.  The kids in the neighborhood love them!

A Trellis of Mexican Sour Gherkins

I only planted a few seeds and we thoroughly enjoyed them.  Then I visited a Demonstration Garden put together by Master Gardeners.  They had a whole trellis full of these mouse watermelons.  They were hanging over my head and I could just pluck them from their vine and pop them into my mouth.  There were so many of them it was a sheer delight to look up and see them hanging in their beauty. Their trellis was made of bamboo from their master bamboo creator.  I am thinking of getting an archway trellis for my garden this year.  Maybe a nice gift to myself!  Maybe something like this so they can grow over the top. To learn more check out this Mother Earth News article.