As brilliant as a harvest moon and as cozy as pie, pumpkins are the essence
of fall! Learn everything you need to know about growing, baking and decorating with them, too. Pumpkins are the most versatile vegetable of all.
| Pumpkin Recipes: A Taste of Fall
| Pumpkin Types: Personality vs. Flavor |
|| Field pumpkins: |
Big, oval and easy to carve, they’re perfect for classic Jack-o-Lanterns. They’re full of personality but when it comes to eating, pass on these big boys…they’re tough, stringy, watery.
|| Sugar pumpkins: |
Smaller and rounder, with fine-grained flesh and delicate flavor, they’re perfect for soups, stews, roasts, pies, cookies and cakes. Pick your own at a local pumpkin patch, where you may also find the best fall fruit (apples, pears, plums) and winter squash for a one stop shop. Some offer hay-rides, corn mazes, and more. What fun! For more info on where to find a pick-your-own pumpkin patch nearby, check out these websites:
| Variety Is The Spice |
Bigger field varieties like Connecticut Field, Baby Boo, Spooktacular, Big Max, Cinderella, and Atlantic Giant are your best choices.
Look for names like Sugar, Cheese, Pie, Baby Bear, and Winter Luxury. They all make for great eating. These are smaller (about 2 to 5 pounds), but they can be carved, too.
All varieties make terrific containers for soups, stews and casseroles. Simply scoop out the seeds and string first.
Gotta Try It! It’s said that the early settlers baked what was to become pumpkin pie by filling a hollowed pumpkin with milk, eggs and spices and then resting it in coals to cook. Mmmm!
| Pumpkin Picking Tips |
• Pick pumpkins when they’re brightly colored, firm and fully mature (they will not ripen off the vine).
• Make sure they’re free of nicks and cuts. The skin should be hard enough to resist puncture by a thumbnail.
• Do not pick a pumpkin up by its “handle”, cut the fruit from the vine using a sharp knife or garden shears or scissors.
• Pumpkins are still very much alive even after they’ve been harvested. Once you have your pumpkins home, don’t leave them outside, especially if it’s cold or raining. Time allowing, store them in a well-ventilated place for a week or two, to “cure” and harden. This protects them against rot so they’ll last longer.
• If one of the pumpkins you’ve picked is imperfect, there are several things you can do to salvage it: Instead of carving, hollow it out to make a container for fresh or dried fall flowers; cut it in half and use the bottom as a container for crudités at an autumn party; just use the seeds (see instructions below) to plant your own patch for next year. And, who can resist roasted seeds for snacks.
| Growing Your Own Pumpkin |
Growing pumpkins is not for the minimalist--they need lots of room. Vines grow long and spread as the fruit develops, as do melons, though they’re not quite as finicky. Other things to keep in mind:
• Pumpkins need a lot of compost and manure, warm, moist, well-drained soil. They don’t do well in clay where they may become waterlogged and soggy.
• Plant pumpkin seeds in June or July, directly into the soil, about 1-3/4 to 2 inches deep and 4-feet apart. By fall, you’ll have a full-grown pumpkin!
• The vines produce a profusion of flowers, but it’s
a good idea to eliminate the number of pumpkins per vine. Remove all but two blossoms, not the leaves, so the plant will concentrate its energy on two fruits.
• Water only the roots and vines, not the leaves as when they are too damp, they rot.
• Pumpkins don’t like extreme cold and freezing temperatures, or blasting heat. Bright sunny days, in the 80s and 90s are perfect.
| Pumpkin Decorating Ideas |
Fall flower arrangements:
Hollow out half a pumpkin, and fill it with a mix of chrysanthemums, daisies and bittersweet flowers.
Turn a half, hollowed out pumpkin on its cut side and use it to display Halloween-themed lollipops.
Stack up pumpkins in graduating sizes, using decorative dowels to hold them in place, planted in flowerpots.
Find odds and ends of recycled materials to create a no-carve jack-o-lantern. Some ideas: drainpipe mouth, caster ears, bracket eyes, chair wheel ears.
There’s a whole universe of pumpkins available in rainbow hues – red, green, variegated, bright orange, yellow, even white. Chose a variety of shapes, colors and sizes and arrange them on the dining room table.
Use tiny pumpkins as candleholders set on windowsills. Simply carve a hole the size of the candles and set it in place.
| Roasted Pumpkin Seeds |
| Pumpkin seeds (a.k.a. pepitas in Mexico) are a bonus, included in every fresh pumpkin. They are great simply salted or tossed with raisins, dried fruits and nuts for a snack. |
To pan roast, separate the seeds from the pulp (do not wash) and for every 2 cups of seeds, use 2 tablespoons for vegetable oil and 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt.
Combine and spread on a cookie sheet.
Bake in a 250-degree oven until dry, about 1-1/4 hours.
| Yield: 4-pound whole pumpkin will yield 2 pounds of raw flesh and 6 ounces of seeds. |
| Storing Pumpkins |
• Fresh pumpkins should be stored away from direct sunlight.
• Refrigerate perishables, prepared food, and leftovers within 2 hours. Place leftovers into shallow Ziploc containers for rapid cooling. Your refrigerator temperature should be 40° F or below.
|| • If you don’t plan to utilize the meat of the pumpkin for cooking right away, you can cut it into cubes and freeze it for later use in a Ziploc freezer bag. To help prevent freezer burn, place your food in bag and lay bag flat. Press as much air as you can out of the bag. Close the bag seal until one inch remains open. Press remaining air out of the bag; then seal the bag completely. Your freezer temperature should be kept at zero degrees Fahrenheit. |