Pumpkins are amazing plants. Intriguing and delicious, they are one of America’s gifts to world food and are fun to grow and eat.

Pumpkins

Pie pumpkins are smaller with thicker stems.

Pumpkins were domesticated and cultivated by Native Americans long before Columbus. They valued them as a nutritious food that would keep well into the winter. Not only is the meat nutritious but also the seeds are packed with important vitamins and minerals

Pumpkins exist in enormous diversity. Today, most people buy one in the fall and carve it for Halloween, or just use it as an ornament.  Then it gets tossed out. Most sold for carving and decoration are field or cow pumpkins. They are edible, but the ring of flesh outside the seed cavity is usually thin and the meat is stringy and needs straining. Transforming cow pumpkins into pie takes work.

 

We grow and buy pie pumpkins. Most pie pumpkins are small, but not all small pumpkins are pie pumpkins. Usually pie pumpkins have an especially thick stem and are heavy for their size. Bred to have dense, non-stringy, bright orange flesh, they are relatively easy to process. Pie pumpkins may be small but they are as interesting and ornamental as the cow variety.

Growing pumpkins is a snap. Buy pie pumpkin seed and plant them in hills after spring’s last frost. Pumpkins love rich soil, and working compost into the hill will invite enthusiastic growth. We don’t even weed our pumpkin patch and only thin the young plants so there are two or three per hill. By September the bright orange fruits are ready to pick when the vines dry up.

Well cured pumpkins keep several months when stored in a cool, dry, dark place.  Just don’t let them freeze.

To process pumpkin meat cut into large chunks.  Place skin side up in a pan with about an inch of water.  Cover. Steam until meat is tender to the fork.  Drain and cool until comfortable to handle but still warm to the touch.  Scoop out the cooked meat into a colander.  Squash the meat through the colander into a bowl, scraping the inside and outside periodically.  Store in closed container until ready to use in pies or muffins.

Although we enjoy most of our pumpkins in pies there are lots of other ways to eat them.  Chunks of their flesh can be added to stew. Hollowed out and baked they can become a container for a savory soup or a sweet dessert when sprinkled with spices and brown sugar.

A favorite Yankee family pie recipe from Yvonne Fellows that has been in our family for three generations. Recipe makes two pies:

2 ¼ cups processed pumpkin meat

¼ cup molasses

¾ cup sugar

(Try Penzeys Spices for superb flavor)

1 ¼ tsp cinnamon

¾ tsp ginger

3 to 4 medium eggs to bind the meat

3 cups milk

Mix ingredients in order given.  Bake in unbaked crusts:  400 degrees for 25 minutes (this gives you just enough time to clean up dishes). Turn down heat to 350 about 50 minutes or until done. Test for doneness by inserting a table knife into the center of the pies.  When it comes out mostly clean, pies are done.  Turn off oven. Let pies set in oven if you wish. Serve warm or cold plain or with real vanilla ice cream.

Granny’s Pumpkin Puffs from Jacqueline Hull in Virginia

Mix the dry ingredients together:

1 ½ cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

½ cup sugar

(Try Penzeys Spices for superb flavor)

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

Cut in ¼ cup shortening to the above

Mix the wet and cut into the above mixture until just moist.  Lumps are OK.

1 beaten egg

½ cup cooked pumpkin

½ cup milk

Fold in: ½ cup raisins.

Fill muffin tins 2/3 full. Sprinkle 2 TBSP sugar over the batter. Bake 400 degrees 15-20 minutes.

 

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