Don’t call us the Grinches of Halloween just because we eat our pumpkin rather than prop it up as a doorstop decoration. Actually, we’re on a mission to resurrect the reputation of the poor pumpkin and were tickled to find kindred pumpkin-loving spirits when visited Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, this summer. With more 35 squash heirloom varietals in the their catalog, including beautiful pumpkin varietals, Seed Savers Exchange shares our mission to bring pumpkins back as a fall mealtime staple and out of the craft-supply category.
For those wanting to incorporate more local and seasonal foods into their diet during the fall season, turn to the pumpkin. These autumn wonders represent key qualities to look for in seasonal foods this time of year:
1. Great Taste
Steer away from pumpkins bred for Halloween carving because these aim for size and not flavor. Instead, seek out colorful and poignant heirloom pumpkin varieties. The folks at Seed Savers Exchange recommend Amish Pie pumpkins (an excellent processing pumpkin with pale orange flesh up to 5 inches) or Winter Luxury Pie pumpkin for their An American Classic Pie recipe below. We like to grow Long Pie pumpkin at our Wisconsin farm, Inn Serendipity, as they are long and dense and easy to use.
2. Nutritional Density
Think like a squirrel and stockpile items in fall that will provide powerhouse nutrients into the lean winter months. Pumpkins rank as an important winter vegetable for the seasonal eater, though, technically, pumpkins are botanically classified as fruit. They provide high levels of an important antioxidant, beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body, in addition to providing high levels of iron and potassium.
3. Easy Storage
Keep a pumpkin at a moderate 50 to 60 degrees F (dry basement storage or a root cellar works well) and make sure the shell is hard and the stem is unbroken.
Once a pumpkin starts to soften, we process and freeze the purée. There are various methods for puréeing: We often simply cut off the rind, clear out the inside seeds and pulp and cook the pumpkin by placing small cut chunks in a steamer over boiling water, simmering until tender. We also like the slow-cooker method. For a nice roasted flavor, use the method described below in the Seed Savers Exchange recipe. After mashing either with a potato masher or in a food processor, the pumpkin purée can be frozen in one-cup proportions for easy use in soups or breads all winter long. Our favorite go-to pumpkin dessert is pumpkin mousse cheesecake, but Seed Savers pumpkin pie recipe below can’t be beat!
Recipe: An American Classic: Pumpkin Pie
Recipe courtesy Seed Savers Exchange, provided by Rosalind Creasy for their 1992 calendar
Yield: 1 pie (6 to 8 servings)
- 1¾ cups pumpkin purée (see below) (Can substitute squash or carrot for pumpkin.)
- 3/4 cup white or brown sugar
- 1 cup milk or cream
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ginger
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp. allspice or cloves
- 3 eggs
- 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Blend all ingredients, minus pie shell. (You might need to do this in two batches, depending on blender capacity. If so, mix batches before pouring into pie shell.)
Pour into 9-inch pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes.
Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake 45 minutes longer or until set.
Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.
Make your own pumpkin purée:
For best results, use a sugar pumpkin or other variety bred for eating, not jack-o’-lantern types. Cut in half, remove seeds and strings, and place cut-side down on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F until very soft, 1 hour or longer, and let cool. Remove skin and any coarse fibers, and purée flesh in a blender, food processor or food mill. One small to medium pumpkin makes about 1 quart of purée.