How To Usher In The Fall Season With Pumpkin & Squash Goodness

by Melissa Corbin 


You’ve popped a bowl of popcorn and settled in for the annual viewing of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. It’s a magical time of year. Fall, that is. It’s when we celebrate those who have gone before us, give thanks for another year of living, and perhaps, a bit of make-believe insues.

Linus: "You don't believe the story of the Great Pumpkin? I thought little girls always believed everything that was told to them. I thought little girls were innocent and trusting."

Sally: "Welcome to the 20th Century!"

This Peanuts quote has got to be an all-time favorite, and is timely to say the least. But pumpkins aren’t just for Peanuts, you know. According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC), the top six states for growing pumpkins in the U.S. are Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California.

Before we get down to the seeds of the situation, you must know that all pumpkins are squash, but not all squash are pumpkin. They belong to the genus, Cucurbita, dating back to 7000 BC in Mexico.

While the list of pumpkins and winter squash may be too plentiful to list them all here, consider these tips when selecting your favorite Cucurbita.

Avoid the canned stuff, as the ingredient lists often include extra sugars and syrups. You’ll find that the natural sweetness is plenty. Packing a nutritious punch, the Cucurbita family of produce is known to reduce blood pressure and help prevent degenerative damage to the eyes. Foods containing beta-carotene, such as pumpkin and winter squash, are also known to ward off cancer, protect against heart disease, asthma and type 2 diabetes. Not to mention, pumpkin and squash are top of the food chain when it comes to being anti-aging agents.

Heavier squash and pumpkins indicate moisture, which you want in terms of cooking. If you’re looking for one to carve, listen for the hollow sound by thumping them.

Green stems indicate a good carving pumpkin, but may also indicate they were picked too soon. This is good for carving purposes, as your selection will last until Halloween. If you’re simply wanting to cook with it, pick the brown stemmed pumpkins and squash. Regardless of purpose, avoid ones that are soft or molded around the stem. They’re past their prime.

Shiny isn’t always best. In this case, it’s a sign of premature picking. Opt for dull, matte skins for best flavor.

Avoid blemishes such as soft spots. A few little imperfections are ok, but soft spots and cracks are a breeding ground for mold.

The deeper the tone of color is best. If there is a pale spot, no worries. That’s where the squash or pumpkin rested on the vine. But if that spot is green, skip it. It’s not ripe.

Now back to seeds...why not roast them, and skip the popcorn for movie night all together? The seeds of a pumpkin or squash are nutrient-rich, full of fiber and protein. To prepare them for the roasting process, you must scoop them out of the pumpkin or squash, and remove the pulp. But, don’t worry about getting them extra clean. A little pulp never hurts, and will add flavor. Add a bit of spice and you’ve got yourself the quintessential fall snack.

To put your fall spirit in motion, here are a few recipes from our seasonal squash Cookidoo collection.  

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Here are the ingredients and method you’ll need:

2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp salt

½ tsp ground allspice

½ tsp chili powder (optional)

3 whole cloves

16 oz raw pumpkin seeds

2 tbsp maple syrup

2 tsp coconut oil

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside. Place cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, allspice, chili powder and cloves into mixing bowl and grind 30 sec/speed 10. Scrape down sides of mixing bowl with spatula and grind a further 30 sec/speed 10. Scrape down sides of mixing bowl with spatula. Add pumpkin seeds, maple syrup and coconut oil and mix 5 min/212°F/speed. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and spread out evenly with spatula. Bake for 20- 25 minutes (325°F) stirring halfway through baking to ensure even cooking. Let cool before serving.

Did you know that the first jack o’ lanterns weren’t pumpkins at all? They were typically turnips and other root vegetables carved and lit to ward off “evil spirits” in Ireland. When Irish immigrants brought this tradition to America during the 19th century, they adapted the orange-hued native fruit to their folklore.

In keeping with the spirit of America’s “melting pot” culture, this recipe of potatoes and pumpkin will ring a bell for Thanksgiving or any Thursday, for that matter.

Here are the ingredients and method you’ll need:

Pumpkin Mashed Potatoes

10 pieces bacon

2 oz shallots, in pieces

2 garlic cloves

2 oz unsalted butter, in pieces, divided

26 oz russet potatoes, peeled, diced (1 in.)

5 oz vegetable stock

1 tsp salt, to taste

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, plus extra to garnish

½ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

1 pinch ground nutmeg (optional)

7 oz canned pumpkin purée

2 oz sour cream

1 tbsp maple syrup (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place 10 strips of bacon on. Prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes (400°F). Meanwhile make mashed potatoes. Place shallots, garlic and 1 oz butter into mixing bowl and chop 3 sec/speed 5. Scrape down sides of mixing bowl with spatula, place simmering basket instead of measuring cup onto mixing bowl lid and sauté 5 min/250°F/speed 1. Add potatoes, stock, salt, thyme, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg, place simmering basket instead of measuring cup onto mixing bowl lid and cook 20 min/212°F/speed. Add pumpkin purée, insert measuring cup and cook 3 min/212°F/speed 1. Add sour cream, 1 oz butter and maple syrup and mix 30 sec/speed 7or until desired consistency is achieved. Meanwhile chop baked bacon. Transfer Pumpkin Mashed Potatoes to a serving bowl, garnish with chopped bacon and thyme. Serve hot.

Pumpkin Soup With Crispy Chickpeas

In the back are Sugar Pumpkins. Smaller, sweeter and less fibrous, this is your best bet for a dessert like pumpkin pie. You’ll spot them at the market right away, because they’re much smaller than  Jack o’ Lantern types. Although, imagine how precious they’d be as individual soup bowls for this Pumpkin Soup with Crispy Chickpeas recipe.

Here are the ingredients and method you’ll need:

2 cans chickpeas, drained (15 oz ea.)

0.5 oz extra virgin olive oil

0.5 oz maple syrup

½ tsp brown sugar

½ tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground black pepper

2 garlic cloves

0.5 oz olive oil

1 tsp salt

½ tsp dried sage

32 oz small sugar pumpkin, peeled, diced

(½ in.) or 32 oz kabocha squash, peeled,

de-seeded and cubed (1 in.)

20 oz vegetable stock

3 oz feta cheese, crumbled

fresh sage leaves, to garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside. Place a bowl onto mixing bowl lid, add chickpeas and weigh in olive oil and syrup. Add brown sugar, cumin seeds, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir with spatula to combine. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and bake for 45-50 minutes (400°F) until browned and crisp, stirring halfway through baking to ensure even cooking. Meanwhile prepare soup.

Place garlic, olive oil, salt and sage into mixing bowl and chop 3 sec/speed 8.Scrape down sides of mixing bowl with spatula and sauté 3 min/212°F/speed. Add pumpkin and stock and cook 20 min/212°F/speed 1. Purée 1 min/speed 4-6, increasing speed gradually.Keep warm.To serve, ladle Pumpkin Soup into bowls and garnish with Crispy Chickpeas,feta and sage leaves.

That's that's a wrap for our pumpkin and squash celebration. Happy Fall, Y’all!

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