Colorful leaves, a chilly bite in the air, howling gales and horizontal rain–ah! Fall in Whatcom County, just the way we like it! And at the Farmers Market and farms all around the County, what says “Fall is here and winter holidays are coming!” more than beautiful orange pumpkins?
We usually think of fall pumpkins for carving into scary faces and monsters, lit from within by candles or small lights. However, virtually all pumpkins are also delicious to eat. Some varieties, often sold as pie pumpkins, sweet pumpkins, or (predictably) sweet pie pumpkins, are especially good for eating. They are usually smaller and have sweeter flesh with a smoother, finer texture than the jack-o-lantern varieties. Jack o’lantern pumpkins can be stringy and coarse, especially the larger ones, but their taste is still delicious.
Besides the “flesh” of pumpkins, the seeds are also edible–and a seasonal treat, as far as I’m concerned. The seeds and stringy centers of pumpkins are removed before cooking the flesh. Put a couple of small bowls on your lap while you are watching TV or listening to music, and separate the seeds from the stringy pulp. Rinse the seeds and pat them dry on a towel. Mix them in a bowl with a small amount of melted local butter and salt. If you like a spicier flavor, you can add a bit of dried habanero pepper powder, too, or soak the seeds overnight in saltwater to give them a saltier taste.
Spread the prepared seeds on a baking sheet and roast at 375 degrees F. for 5-7 minutes. Alternatively, you could pan roast them in a dry skillet over medium high heat. The seeds are done when they have turned crispy and brown. Be careful not to let them burn–it can happen quickly. Let them cool a little, and eat them for a healthy snack. They have a rich, nutty flavor that I really enjoy, and they are packed with nutrition, such as amino acids, zinc, and B vitamins.
Pumpkins themselves can be prepared many ways. You may remember me rhapsodizing last year over my favorite pumpkin recipe, pumpkin pie. Commonly pumpkin is thought of as an ingredient for desserts or sweets: pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pudding, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, etc. While those are all wonderful, it’s also worthwhile to try pumpkin as a savory dish. For example, pumpkin can be made into a delicious soup, with many possible flavor variations. It’s also good roasted and mashed as a side dish with butter, and perhaps a little honey or apple cider syrup.
For main dishes, use it to stuff ravioli and top with your favorite local ingredients sauce sprinkled with hazelnuts. You could also try mixing leftover turkey, chopped apples and chunks of roasted pumpkin with herbs topped with bread crumbs for a nice one pot meal casserole.
For a festive appearance, it’s nice to use the pumpkin itself as a serving dish, or even as a bowl to eat from (ideal for pumpkin soup). The shell of a pumpkin will stand up to quite a bit of cooking, and still look beautiful on the holiday table.
In the recipe below, I’ve done just that. Essentially it’s a casserole cooked inside a whole pumpkin. Since cutting a pumpkin (or any squash) can be difficult, I kept it to a minimum for this dish. The only slicing required is to remove the top of the pumpkin, just as you would for a jack o’lantern. The pumpkin flesh itself is very easy to remove when you serve the dish, because by then it will be soft and creamy.
If you’re not sure your pumpkin will remain standing after cooking, you can serve it in a bowl that just fits around the base of it. A bowl provides just enough support to keep the sides from collapsing.
Perfect for the winter holidays as either a main dish or a side dish!
- 3 lbs whole pumpkin, sweet pie variety (Terra Verde, Everson)
- 1 Tbsp butter (Breckinridge Farm, Everson)
- ½ cup onion, chopped (Full Bloom Farm, Lummi Island)
- 1 clove garlic, minced (Half Acre Farm, Ferndale)
- ½ lb. ground beef (Second Wind Farm, Everson)
- ½ tsp dried jalapeno pepper flakes (friend’s garden, Lummi Island)
- ½ cup chopped apple (BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
- ¾ cup cheese, grated (Pleasant Valley Dairy, Ferndale)
- 2 pieces stale bread, cubed (homemade)
- ½ tsp fresh ginger, grated (Terra Verde, Everson)
- ½ tsp dried sage (Half Acre Farm u-pick, Ferndale)
- ½ tsp dried thyme (Half Acre Farm u-pick, Ferndale)
- 1 tsp salt
- Cut off top with knife at 45 degree angle. Carefully cut a hole large enough so you can get your hand inside the pumpkin easily. Save the top to use later. Remove seeds and stringy center of pumpkin, using a metal spoon or some other curved tool to scrape the seeds out.
- Preheat over to 350 degrees F.
- Melt butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Saute onions until browned, about 3-5 minutes, then add garlic and saute another minute. Remove from heat and set aside in mixing bowl.
- In same skillet, brown ground beef and jalapeno flakes. Add meat mixture to mixing bowl with onions and garlic. Add apple, cheese, bread, ginger, and herbs. Mix filling well.
- Season the inside of the pumpkin with salt. Stuff with the filling mixture. Replace pumpkin top, and put the pumpkin on a baking sheet covered with parchment (or in a buttered casserole dish or Dutch oven). Put into oven and bake for about 90 minutes.
- Remove cap, and cook for another 20-30 minutes until top of stuffing is browned and crispy.
Either cut the pumpkin into wedges, or spoon out filling, cutting into the sides of the pumpkin to remove it with the filling. This works well as either a main dish or a hearty side.
Artisan Wine Gallery, 2072 Granger Way, Lummi Island
BelleWood Acres, 231 Ten Mile Rd., Lynden
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad and Chestnut, Bellingham
Community Food Cooperative, 1220 N. Forest St. or 315 Westerly Road, Bellingham
Full Bloom Farm, Centerview and Tuttle, Lummi Island
Friend’s garden, Lummi Island
Half Acre Farm U-pick at Boxx Berry Farm, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale
Second Wind Farm (Paul Chudek), Everson
Terra Organica, 1530 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham