Pumpkins. Nothing says autumn quite like the round, Halloweeny orange of a pumpkin. They look fabulous as outdoor decorations, baby pumpkins arranged in a Thanksgiving centre piece is lovely and cut out and glowing with a candle is the quintessential Halloween experience.
But I’m about food.
I never grow anything I can’t eat. Decorative gourds are nice. I like them on other people’s table, but you can’t eat them. I’m sure growing gigantic jack-0-latern’s is fun, but what happens after Halloween? Why waste precious garden space growing decorations? I use every square inch of my garden, including my flower garden to grow food to be enjoyed in the moment and canned for those dark winter months and pumpkins are no exception.
The first step to enjoying pumpkins is choosing the right ones. Smaller pumpkins (3-7 lbs range) have sweeter, denser flesh. Have fun experimenting with lovely heirloom French varieties you’ll find at your local farmers market. One of the best way to enjoy pumpkins is to make a pie. Warm, dense and rich pumpkin pie with a big dollap of whipped cream is what makes life so fabulous. A close second is a sweet and moist pumpkin spice loaf that will fill your home with the most enticing aromas and fill you with gratitude for warm days and cold nights. Pumpkins make lovely preserves, such as pumpkin chutney or pumpkin butter (akin to pumpkin pie). Sadly, because of pumpkin’s dense flesh, it can’t be safely canned using a boiling water bath, so you must refigerate or freeze your preserves. Still, it’s worth the effort as pumpkin preserves are unique and as local as it gets.
Pumpkins also make a delicious savoury soup and feature heavily in many African dishes. Here’s one recipe from Food Network Canada, compliments of Vineland Estates (and my favourite Niagara winery):
- 1 pound Potiron squash, peeled, seeded and diced
- or butternut squash
- or acorn
- 1 large Spanish onion, diced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 parsnip, peeled and diced
- 1 litre rich chicken stock
- 2 oranges, juiced and zested
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 cloves
- 1 star anise seedpod
- Place the squash, onion, carrots and parsnips in a large soup pot and cover with the stock. Add the orange juice and zest. Add water if needed to just cover the vegetables. Tie the whole spices in a small square of cheesecloth and add to the soup. Bring to a simmer. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about thirty minutes. Remove spice bag and cool slightly. Puree in a high-speed blender or with a hand held blender and then pass through a very fine sieve to ensure smoothness. Taste and add salt as needed. Serve immediately or refrigerate then reheat for serving.