While the rest of New Zealand has been focused on government budgets and red ink, of late we have turned to more humble matters: the pumpkin.
Our curiosity was piqued when reading about the hot competition going on to grow New Zealand's largest pumpkin. Robbie Dorresteyn from Taupo has claimed the Kiwi title with a 540kg monster, which took 94 days to grow. The world record as recorded in The Guinness Book of Records is 821kg and was grown in Wisconsin, US. The winner said his secret is a precise mixture of sunshine, rain, cow manure, fish emulsion and seaweed.
Having been awakened to the world of giant pumpkins, we are amazed how many people grow them. It's not something that you really see on the nightly news, but there is a huge amount of enterprise going on, from school projects to A&P shows.
We have also discovered a great website specifically about giant pumpkins - giantpumpkins.co.nz. Sam, the man behind the site, does a great job of explaining what you need to do to get started - from what seeds to buy (he recommends Atlantic Giant) and where to buy them, to how to feed the pumpkin as it grows, and so on. And he updates his site with news and photos from the many pumpkin-growing competitions around the country.
What great fun, we thought, and what a great way to get the family involved in the garden. The best time to plant seeds is around October so now is the time to learn more about this fascinating pursuit and get your ground ready.
The big question, of course, is can you eat a giant pumpkin? Well, yes. Sam says they taste a little like rock melon, but are not quite as good.
Anyway, it's probably fair to say that for the kitchen, you are better off growing a regular garden variety of pumpkin, with the giant pumpkin used to feed the family pig or house cow. If you grow a whopper you will be able to sell the seeds - there are heaps of giant pumpkin seeds for sale online.
There are other uses though. Sam can be seen on his website wearing a pumpkin vest, and he has plans to make a helmet. We reckon if you grew one large enough you could hollow it out and use it as a garden shed.
So there you have it. And on the subject of pumpkins, if you have a favourite pumpkin recipe send it in to us so that we can share it with others.
Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at www.oilyrag.co.nz.