Yesterday, at the local CSA farm I belong to, I couldn’t help but smile at the young boy who dragged his mother eagerly round and round the bins of big orange pumpkins which were part of our share for the week.
“Are you the Great Pumpkin? Are you?” he’d announce, addressing the giant orange orbs as he jabbed a chubby finger toward them.
He must have touched every single pumpkin. Mom rolled the other options aside as he handled them, tapped them with little preschool drumbeats and grasped the stems, all the while parroting that crucial question: “Are you the Great Pumpkin?”
At long last, he tapped, tried to lift one, then leaned in conspiratorially, cheek to thick orange skin, and whispered “You’re the Great Pumpkin”. There was a quick nod of absolute certainty, his brow furrowed in all seriousness.
Mom lifted the pumpkin, carefully cradled it in her arms, and it was off to the car with his treasure.
Pumpkin buying is one of those precious fall experiences, whether perusing a bin at your local farm market or navigating a big field filled with trailing vines, then heading back on a cart filled with hay for some spiced cider. Or perhaps you save money (or make money) and get in touch with nature by growing your own pumpkins. Regardless, I’d classify it among life’s simplest pleasures, an inexpensive feature to frame a crisp autumn day around.
But what of that pumpkin, once it arrives at home, to land on a doorstep or mantle?
Kids’ Turn Central has, I kid you not, a list of 101 Things To Do With a Pumpkin, everything from making a lush, savory bread for the family to enjoy to making an elaborate work of art or even a pumpkin totem pole.
Here are a few of my favorite uses for pumpkins:
I must admit I’m a bit disturbed that those giant inflatables have started appearing for Halloween. I saw a horse-drawn hearse replete with ghosts in a circular recently and thought wow, what a waste of electricity for a giant eyesore. Why not just follow tradition and paint or carve that pumpkin for the best jack-o-lantern on the block. If you need some inspiration, there are some wonderfully elaborate designs here and here.
Low in calories, pumpkin is a great source of vitamin A, potassium, protein, and vitamin C. It’s a shame to let it go to waste, so why not try something new? Just go for smaller sugar pumpkins over those bred for decoration to avoid possible stringiness and optimize flavor.
Missourifamilies.org gives some great and easy instructions for extracting the pumpkin flesh for a puree you can use in cooking:
There are three ways to prepare the pumpkin so you can get pumpkin puree. To bake it, cut the pumpkin in half and place the pumpkin, cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees until fork tender or about an hour. To microwave it, place the cut side of half of the pumpkin on a microwave safe plate and microwave on high for fifteen minutes or until fork tender. To boil, cut the pumpkin into large chunks and rinse in cold water. Place the chunks in a large pot in about an inch of water. Cover the pot and boil for 20-30 minutes until tender. To make the puree, cool and peel the pumpkin and use a food processor, blender, ricer or a potato masher.
Pumpkin soup served in a roasted pumpkin is not only an impressive dinner party feature, it’s also a relatively inexpensive way to feed lots of people. You can also fill your edible centerpiece with meats and other stuffings. But there’s so much more to be done with pumpkin.
Besides the links above, I have hand-picked some irresponsibly delicious recipes I’ve found around the Web. I say “irresponsibly” because any of these might cause you to recklessly defy any traditional notion of portion size.
- Pumpkin-Walnut Foccacia with Gruyere (Gruyere’s not cheap, but what an indulgence! Fit for kings, I say. )
- Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage
- Pumpkin Pancakes
- Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
- Vegetarian Four Cheese Lasagna with Pumpkin and Eggplant
- Fresh Pumpkin Pie (of course, I had to have one pie recipe)
- Kaddo bowrani (Afghani pumpkin)
And GreenLiving at care2.com has some delicious-sounding uses for any leftover puree, including sandwich spreads and fillings, a flavorful icing for breads or cakes, and even as an addition to white sauces, which would be pretty fabulous over plain old cheese ravioli. Or even pumpkin ravioli.
Also, don’t forget to roast those pumpkin seeds for a cheap, healthy and seasonal snack. About.com has 4 great recipes to spice or sweeten them up.
Photo credit: Dipfan
Updated June 24, 2016 and originally published October 1, 2007.