Let Us Eat Pumpkin

Deco-edibles from the pumpkin farm
My family scored these deco-edibles from Sinkland Farms in Christiansburg, Va.

With Jack O’ Lantern carving at Halloween and the absolute necessity of a pumpkin pie on the Thanksgiving sideboard, pumpkins have long been central to fall. But does anyone else find it ironic that while pumpkin pie flavor has found its way into absolutely everything (Oreos! Pop-Tarts! Twizzlers!), pumpkins themselves are still considered more decor than food?

That tide may be turning, though. It’s not so much that anyone thinks the big orange pumpkins bred to be carried and carved and lit should become our dinner. It’s the funkier ones — the dusty-colored, elegant Cinderellas and the striking, white Ghosts and the grape-green, deeply creased Jarrahdales — those are the ones worth eating. A shift I’m observing is how many more of these unusual, these truly tasty pumpkins, are gracing porches on every block. If they’ve made their way onto our porches, well, we all know the kitchen can’t be far behind.

It’s not just me seeing a growth industry in pretty pumpkins. The New York Times wrote a piece last week ago about Sarah Frey, the largest pumpkin producer in the country, and how she’s harvesting more interesting varieties than ever — and encouraging her customers to eat them.

National Public Radio aired several pieces last October looking at the rise in popularity of strange squash and how concerns about food waste are one influence moving us to eat our deco-edibles.

So, let me take this day after National Pumpkin Day to share with you the pumpkin recipes I’ve been making. Pumpkin scones and pumpkin bread and pumpkin cornbread muffins. I roast my seeds even from the not-so-tasty carving pumpkin varieties; they are chewy and nutty and delicious. I’ve also got a recipe for a decadent pumpkin cheesecake I carried across two state lines last Thanksgiving.

For years, I have taken all my Cinderellas and sugar pumpkins and cooked them up after they’d done their decorating duty. It’s an arrangement that works well for me: I get a front stoop filled with color and fun in October and November and a much-needed shot of Vitamin A and potassium come January.

Flipping through my files, though, I’m tracking a tendency toward pumpkin baking. A new challenge for my meal planning is to make my pumpkin into dinner more than dessert. I’m told it’s a cultural thing, that Indian and Thai cuisine, for instance, include savory pumpkin meals more than American or, say, French. Which will be an added benefit if I’m making these dishes: more pumpkin and a more diverse range of recipes in my coffers.

What’s your favorite way to eat pumpkin? Do you have a favorite variety?


Around the web: My Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op class last week was a success! Thanks to those who came. Click  here if you’d like to see a rundown of what we covered. And here for an account of the day by the generous and gracious Becky Ellis, who posted about it on her blog, BubblyBEE.

Christina with her chicken


Also: If you see an updated me hanging out on the website and in the world of social media, know that I have Mariellen Hubbard of Family Tree Photography to thank. She did an amazing job of capturing my smile and my crazy tomato-and-chicken-filled life. Thanks, Mariellen!

Next week: Let the celebrations begin!

virginia bloggers icon