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The Great Pumpkin Fall Harvest

Like the many fruits of our labor within the vegetable kingdom, the flowering vegetables seem to creep in on us at just the right time. As fall approaches, almost overnight so do our good old-fashioned Fall Harvests and festivals of food – which include my favorite edible and inedible varieties of the gourd family, such as hard-shelled pumpkins and winter squash.

I secretly eat them all year, they’re that delicious.

Pumpkins and their history of cultivation trace back 10,000 years, carrying the matured sees that bare the fruit and vegetables of their next generation. Much like the citrus tree, they can grow on small bushes and trailing vines after being replaced by a beautiful trumpet-shaped flower blossom.

Adorned not just for their beauty and their bounty, but traditionally, most folks have grown to love them as great jack-o-lanterns at Halloween. Some of my favorite elaborate pumpkins include the great pumpkin coach that transports Cinderella to the ball, and don’t forget about Charlie Brown!

I love October and its bountiful fall harvest season when pumpkin patches start mysteriously appearing around every corner. Every Farmer’s Market you shop will have every regional variety, making it that much more fun.

I like to use tiny ornamental gourds with “little boo” sayings and make candle holders or use giant field pumpkins to carve great big jack-o-lanterns. Another one of my favorites is the large, round Hokkaido pumpkins, that I like to masquerade as spooky creatures and luminaries that historically light up the nights across New Mexico and Central America. Striped winter squashes make great soups, sauces, and quick and easy breads.

But my all-time favorite is the super sweet “sugar pie” pumpkins, which are bell and acorn-shaped.

Enjoy this time of year and celebrate in another glorious growing season wherever you are. Before too long, take a good long walk through a pumpkin patch, or stroll through a corn maze. Or hey – why not just stay at home with the family and make a soup or bake a super yummy pumpkin pie? Nothing better!

Nutrition

A pumpkin is rich in vitamins including:

  • Beta-carotene
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Fiber
  • Niacin
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Silicon
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium

You can even eat the seeds, which are super high in Zinc. Whole, uncut pumpkins and winter squash can be stored in a cool, dry place if you’re going to prepare immediately or it can be frozen for up to 3 months, making them super accessible to keep on-hand during the fall.

 

Picking

Pumpkins are considered a fruit, so when you’re looking for the best pumpkin to pick from the patch, go for smaller (4-6 pounds) heavier pumpkins, with smoother exteriors that are crack and dent-free. If you’re picking a “sugar pie”, look for a 2-inch stem and a hard shell, which will give you a meatier, more nutrient-filled pumpkin.

 

Preparing

When preparing your pumpkin, follow this simple, easy process:

  • Lie over a newspaper on a sturdy table
  • With a sharp knife, remove the stem and cut in half
  • Remove seeds and stringy flesh
  • Discard flesh, rinse and dry
  • Save seeds for later use – they’re delicious roasted!

 

Baking

My favorite way to eat a pumpkin is by baking – this intensifies their natural flavor and brings out all that delicious sweetness. To bake, place cut side on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until the desired degree of tenderness and is soft to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool.

 

Pureeing

Remove the baked flesh from the pumpkin’s skin to the bowl of a food processor by scraping out with a large spoon. Process until smooth. Use in your favorite soup, stew, and pie recipes. Fresh pumpkin puree is usually thin and watery, making it unsuitable for muffins, breads, or cookies. For a firmer pumpkin puree, I recommend Libby’s Organic Pumpkin.

 

Featured Pumpkin:
Delicatta or Sweet Dumpling Squash

These squash have ridges around their skin, and it’s soft enough to eat after baking. They have a flavor profile much like roasted chestnuts. The Delicatta and Dumpling Squash are a great substitute to the otherwise very expensive chestnuts, which are usually only available around Christmastime.

To prepare:

  • Wash thoroughly
  • Dry and cut in half
  • Remove seeds and flesh
  • Dice into 1-inch cubes
  • Lightly toss in Olive Oil and a pinch of Nutmeg
  • Place on baking sheet
  • Bake at 400 degrees for around 20 minutes or until desired softness
  • Remove from oven and let cool

 

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