There's more to pumpkins than just jack-'o-lanterns or plain pie
What to do with the pumpkins now piling up at roadside stands, farmer's markets, and grocery stores? Although the colors and shapes are wonderful, these vegetables are good for many things besides desserts and decoration.
In Colonial days, pumpkins were a dependable staple of the diet. When other crops failed, the reliable pumpkin came in handy for making sauces, soups, stews , conserves, pudding, cakes, and breads.
Today many pumpkins are known as field or display pumpkins. Cultivated primarily for carving jack-o'-lanterns, they often grow to immense proportions and are exhibited at county fairs for awards and prizes.
The field type, however, is not very good for eating, as the flesh is usually stringy and watery and has little flavor.
Squashes and pumpkins are members of the gourd family. Pumpkins, as well as winter squash, are eaten when fully ripe; the seeds are hard and the rind is tough. When buying winter squash such as pumpkin, butternut, Hubbard, and banana squash, choose those that are heavy for their size and have tough, hard, unblemished rinds.
One pound of squash or pumpkin will give about 1 cup of cooked, mashed squash or pumpkin. One and one-half to 3 pounds of squash or pumpkin yields 1 quart of canned squash or pumpkin. Three pounds of squash or pumpkin yields 2 pints of frozen squash or pumpkin.
Here are some tips on buying and preparing winter vegetables from the Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture: STORAGE
Store winter squash and pumpkin at cool room temperature, about 60 degrees F. , and they will keep several months. Squash or pumpkin kept at less than 50 degrees F. is susceptible to chilling injury, while at normal room temperature they will keep only about 1 week. PREPARATION
Boiled: Wash squash or pumpkin. Cut into quarters or smaller pieces and remove seeds. Drop chunks into lightly salted, boiling water. Cover and cook until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Drain and remove rind. Mash and drain again if watery. Season with butter, salt, pepper, and herbs if desired. Serve immediately.
Baked: Wash squash or pumpkin. Cut acorn squash in half, other squashes and pumpkin in chunks. Remove seeds. Place in baking pan and add just enough water to cover bottom of pan. Bake in 400 degree F. oven. Bake acorn squash 30 minutes , Hubbard 45 minutes covered. Uncover and bake until tender - 25 minutes for acorn, 30 minutes for Hubbard.
Herbs to use with winter squash: allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, mustard seeds, fennel, basil.
Frozen: Cook, mash, season, and cool pumpkin or squash. Pack into containers leaving 1/2 inch headspace; seal and freeze.
Winter squash and pumpkin can be glazed or stuffed, and both make delicious pies. Even the seeds can become a tasty snack. Perky Pumpkin Seeds 2 cups unwashed pumpkin seeds 3 tablespoons melted butter 1 1/4 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, optional Heat oven to 250 degrees F. In large, shallow baking pan combine all ingredients. Bake about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until seeds are crisp , dry, and golden brown. Makes 2 cups.
The following recipe is from Olga Jason of New Bedford, Mass. Butternut Ice Cream Pie 2 cups cooked fresh butternut squash, mashed 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 teaspooon salt 1/2 teaspoon ginger 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1 cup whipping cream, whipped 1 pint vanilla ice cream 1 baked 9-inch pie shell, chilled, or graham cracker crust
Combine squash, sugar, salt, and spices and mix well. Fold in whipped cream.
Spoon ice cream into pie shell, spreading to edges. Spoon squash on top, spread to edges.
Freeze. Serve garnished with additional whipped cream, pecans, or chopped nuts if desired. Makes l 9-inch pie.