Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Story of a Pumpkin

In September we bought this lovely TurksTurban Pumpkin at Bi-Zi Farms outside Vancouver, WA. My husband, Master Food Preserver Eric Tworivers taught an "Intro To Food Preservation" class that morning and we had time to shop and enjoy the farm store afterwards.  

I had planned to roast it and save the seeds to plant next season but almost immediately we found that life had other plans for us.

Shortly after the purchase we received news that we would have to leave our home and garden of five years. Imagine our surprise to find ourselves in what is so close to our dream home less than 2 months later.  

The pumpkin survived the short journey and change of scene and now is back on schedule just before the November Thanksgiving holiday.

At 2 ½ pounds this is not a big pumpkin but I have read that smaller pumpkins are sweeter. It is destined to become a sweet, savory “Pumpkin Soup with Sage and Bacon” or Pumpkin pie. 

What is it about pumpkins? They can take over our summer gardens with their verdant vines and symbolize the abundance of fall. Where do they come from? How many kinds are there? What are they all good for?

The origin of the pumpkin.
Pumpkins, from the genus Curcurbita are native to North America. The name, Pumpkin, is from the Greek “pepon” meaning large melon.

There are many kinds of Pumpkins some of which are:

American Tonda
Amish Pie
Baby Bear
Baby Boo
Baby Pam Sugar Pie
Big Rock
Big Max
Cotton Candy
Cushaw Green
Cushaw Gold
Full Moon
Halloweeen in Paris
Howden Biggie
Iron Man
La Estrella
Lil' Pumpkemon
Long Island Cheese
Marina de Chioggia
Musque de Provence
New England Pie
Old Zebs
One Too Many
Orange Smoothie
Queensland Blue
Red Warty Thing
Rock Star
Rouge Vif D'Etampes
Snack Jack
Turks Turban

The Turks Turban Pumpkin is thought to be one of the oldest pumpkin variety's available. It's light colored, orange flesh, is dense, slightly dry, with a mild, rich flavor that lends itself to many different uses. Ours became a rich, creamy custard pie. The main comment was “it really tastes like pumpkin” which I took to mean it was good. Our basic recipe:

Fresh Pumpkin Pie

1 medium pie pumpkin - 2 cups for pie, reserve the rest in the freezer
Pastry for single-crust pie
2 large eggs
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh, finely chopped ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1 can sweetened, condensed milk  

 In large bowl mash pumpkin.  Add eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and nutmeg; beat until smooth. Gradually beat in milk. Pour into crust.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees; bake 40-45 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

How long will a pumpkin last?
Kept in a cool (55 degrees F), dry place and out of sunlight a pumpkin might last for 8 – 12 weeks

Save Your Seeds
If it was a good, flavourful pumpkin you might want to try growing them yourself. After careful cleaning, I laid the seeds to dry in hopes of more pumpkin goodness for next year. Putting them on waxed paper at first keeps them from sticking to things. Then I transferred them to paper towel and put to rest in our chilly garage for 30 days after which we will sort out any moldy bits and store the rest.

I must confess, I didn't toast any of the Turks Turban seeds because we saved them all for next year. Toasted Pumpkin seeds are a healthy, crunchy treat either plain, or sweet or savory.

Enjoy the diverse, tasty and healthy world of pumpkins in breads, puddings, cakes, soup and so much more.

What are your favorite ways to prepare pumpkin or winter squash?

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