Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging: Heirloom Pumpkins

Pumpkins. Nothing exciting, right? Big, orange, made for carving at Halloween ... comes in a can for pie at Thanksgiving ... hmm. Not really.

Long before pumpkins were porch decor in October, they existed as a long-keeping, very practical source of vegetables during the long, cold winter months. Hence, the name "winter squash." Some varieties can keep for months at room temperature, surely an advantage in the days before refrigeration and megamarts. Pumpkins were then, and should be now, FOOD.

Still, I can't resist multi-tasking some of these heirloom varieties as fall decor as they await their fate at the hands of my chef's knife.

Left to right, above, here's a primer on some of the more unique and edible ones.
  1. Butternuts and sugar pie pumpkins are the most familiar varieties to show up in our kitchens.
  2. Musquee de Provence, a traditional variety from the south of France. The skin is a beautiful, rich brown color when ripe. The flesh is deep orange, thick and very fine flavored. The fruit grow to 20 lbs. each, the pumpkins are very heavy for their dimensions, with thick flesh. Not for carving up on the front porch!
  3. Long Island Cheese, smooth, without the deep ribs, this buff-colored beauty gets its name from its "cheese wheel" shape. Very heavy for its size, thick, sweet flesh is smooth, and great for soups.
  4. Rouge Vif D' Etampes, or "Cinderella" pumpkins are striking with a deep red-orange color. This is a French heirloom variety. The seed variety dates back to the 1880's at least, and was then the most common pumpkin in the Central Market in Paris. The flesh is deep orange, suitable for pies.
  5. Queensland Blue, an Australian variety introduced to the U.S. in the 1930's. Kind of bell-shaped with a unique blue-gray colored skin.
  6. Kabotcha, a Japanese pumpkin variety. Small, with sweet, chestnut flavor to the orange flesh.
  7. Black Kutsu, the most unique of my stockpile this year. The skin is nearly black with deep ribbing and lots of texture. This is a rare Japanese squash. The black skin is said to turn a rich chestnut color while in storage. Golden flesh will taste of hazelnuts, 3-8 lbs.
  8. Sucrine du Berry, looks like a squatty butternut, bell-shaped. Another French variety.
  9. Blue Hubbard seed dates back to at least 1909. The teardrop-shaped fruit can weigh 15-40 lbs. The deep golden flesh is sweet, fine-grained, which makes this one good for baking, pies, and soup. These keep for long periods in storage. The shell is hard, so be careful when trying to cut up.
The first pumpkin to meet up with the oven this year was the Long Island Cheese. This one was small compared to most others of the variety and the 4 lbs. was just right for yielding the five cups of cooked pumpkin for the Pumpkin-White Cheddar Soup below.

Pumpkin-White Cheddar Soup

Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted by Kalyn's Kitchen, this week is the third anniversary! Congrats!

More Pumpkin and Squash Recipes:
Pumpkin, Lentil and Carrot Soup
Coconut Curry Pumpkin Soup
Pumpkin Gnocchi with Walnut Cream Sauce
Roasted Whole Pumpkin with Gruyere
Stuffed Squash with Sausage, Rice and Cranberries


Kalyn Denny said...

Sounds delicious. I like the sound of squash, thyme, sage, and white cheddar.

Rachel said...

yum!! My potimarron and mini-delicata pumpkins are growing nicely and I'm already envisioning the harvest. Plus, I discovered that Jess took a pumpkin seed from the last one I bought at the market and planted it in a pot on the back porch. She's very proud of herself because it's growing! (I'm darned proud of her too!)

Anonymous said...

A very delcious combination. Bon apetit!!!

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