Friday, October 24, 2008

Pumpkins Everywhere, Not a One to Eat?

Trip to the pumpkin patch this past weekend, left me wondering, "How could pumpkin only come from a can?"

I wandered the patch, knowing some of the unique varieties that are edible and darn good, but looking for the others I have not yet tried.

With each new one, such as this 60 pound "Big Max," I asked the farmer, "So, can you eat that?"

He gave me a look like I just asked if I could grill up one of the barn cats or a possum. "Well, you can ... but the pie pumpkins are over there ..."

What's an orange-food-loving girl to do?

To answer lsuliv's question on what you can do with pumpkin flesh, well, a lot. But first, a few notes on where to get that pumpkin flesh besides a can.

Which Pumpkins are Edible?
Forget the can. Most pumpkins are edible, some are just better for eating than others. The typical "jack-o-lantern" or carving pumpkins tend to have little flesh for the size and are very stringy and flavorless. Never try to cook a pumpkin you carved for Halloween.

As I said in a previous post, "How often do you take produce out of your fridge, cut it open, set it on the front porch for a week, share a bite with the neighborhood squirrels, burn a candle in it, then take it in to cook?"

The best pumpkins for eating are the ones that are very heavy for their size. The flesh (not the stringy mass holding the seeds) is thick and tends to be deep orange. These best choices range from the sweet, small "sugar" or "pie" pumpkins to heirloom varieties. My favorites of the several squashes and pumpkins I cooked last year included;
  • Long Island Cheese, a beautiful buff colored variety with dryer flesh and mild flavor.
  • Musquee de Provence, or "Fairy Tale" pumpkins, these have higher water content and the flesh may need to drain in cheese cloth before being used for baking. They are gorgeous, deeply ribbed and range in hue from green to orange.
  • Rouge Vif D' Etampes, or "Cinderella" pumpkins are striking with a deep red-orange color. Like the Fairy Tale, this is a French heirloom variety.
  • Jarrahadale are striking blue-green to slate-gray. The flesh is deep orange and very tasty.
  • Hubbard, these are available as the smaller varieties and giant sized specimens as large as my "Big Max."

And, the "Big Max" (pictured, with the rather unflattering "Sunday" look I am sporting) I have sitting on my front porch (in spite of the farmer's dubious look) is listed as "suitable for pies" in the heirloom seed catalog. It weighs three times what a carving pumpkin does for the same size. If the neighborhood kids try to smash it, well, they are going to get a big surprise trying to pick that one up. Maybe even a hernia.

The story does show just how far we've gotten away from real pumpkin when even the farmer does not know which can be eaten. My favorite pumpkin farmer at my local farmers market was a better source for unique eating varieties. Many, if not all, of the pumpkins in the picture here are edible, even the "Red Warty Thing" in the back row on the right, and the salmon-colored one with the beige "warts" (front row, second from left) is called a Galeux d'Eysines. It's a French heirloom variety that is definitely meant for cooking.

For an idea of some of the variety of pumpkins that you can eat, this online seed catalog has some stunning heirlooms.

Which Part of the Pumpkin is the Part You Eat?
The flesh of the pumpkin is the edible part, not the stringy, pulpy mess that contains the seeds. You can also roast those seeds and eat them, of course, but save a few to plant if you have one of those unique varieties! Scoop out the stringy stuff with the seeds, roast the flesh, or, if you have a VERY good knife, peel and chop the flesh for cooking cubed.

Be warned, I've seen a cheap knife snap trying to cut into these. It takes a solid piece of steel and some arm strength to prep one of these hefty specimens! Be careful.

Cooking instructions for pumpkin puree are here.

Which, finally, brings me to Lsuliv's question.

What do You Do With Pumpkin?
For the Puree:
Soups like Pumpkin, Lentil and Carrot and Coconut Curry Pumpkin Soup
Pumpkin Gnocchi with Walnut Cream Sauce
Plus, pies, bread, cookies, muffins, pancakes, waffles ...

For Cubed Pumpkin:
You can use the drier-fleshed varieties in any recipe that calls for sweet potato or butternut squash. Try pumpkin in place of the Delicata squash in this recipe for Squash with Red Rice, Cranberries and Pecans

Or, You Can Leave It Whole:
Roasted Whole Pumpkin with Gruyere


Chiot's Run said...

I have been buying many different kinds of pumpins & squashes to try in recipes this winter. I've been saving seeds from each one. We'll definitely be getting our vitamin A this winter!

Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer said...

This post is very interesting. I had never really thought about the difference in pumpkins. I had always figured they were all one in the same. I would love to pick up a cooking pumpkin though and make my own pumpkin soup or pancakes or something rather than from a can or mix.

Dandy said...

Thank you so much for this post! I've been wondering which are edible and everyone I ask says pie pumpkins. I mean, I knew those couldn't be the only edible ones!

Marg from WV said...

3Thank you so much for the info. We grew great pumpkins this year and are not wasteful people. I am, with my husband's help, cooking up a big pot of pumpkin now. We love all things pumpkin.

borzoiholly said...

I saw these "warty " pumpkins in the store yesterday and was wondering what the heck they were and what you would do with them. Now I'll have to buy one and try it. Thanks for the info.