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Prairie Ramblings Episode
Fri November 8, 2013
From Pumpkin Patch to Kitchen Delight
Seeing photos of my granddaughter’s visit to a pumpkin patch reminds me why these seasonal venues draw visitors from miles around. Walking among vines to eyeball and then pick and carry home these great orange globes connects people to the soil that grew that particular squash and to the sun and rain that nurtured it. It’s like holding an electrical wire and getting the full buzz, only without the shock and spasms.
In addition to linking visitors to the earth, such moments remind folks of simpler times when families worked together to put up the harvest. Freshly butchered meat cured in smoke houses while attics and cellars swelled to bursting with canned goods and dried crops that kept well through the winter. Pumpkins, squash, and root crops brightened hearts and homesteads. Over the winter, cooks could retrieve what they needed to create nourishing soups, stews, side dishes, and desserts.
Ironically, many families today have never eaten freshly baked or roasted pumpkin. We served a homemade pie last Thanksgiving to guests who, like us, were born during Eisenhower’s presidency. One of the first comments upon seeing the treat was, “ What is this?” Fresh made pumpkin pie is a lighter hue than that made from a can, so it looks unfamiliar to the uninitiated. “It tastes like what you expect only different,” one friend explained.
Following our meal, discussion continued about using these orbs for more than jack-o-lanterns and center pieces in fall décor. It reminded me of the first time I roasted the seeds for our daughters. Digging those kernels out of the slimy strands inside the pumpkins had all three of us squealing, “Gross, yucky, ooooogh!”
It’s hard to imagine anything eliciting such responses would generate, “Mmmm, Yummy, can we make more,” after a cleaning, spritzing with Worcestershire- enhanced butter , and toasting with sea salt. Kids and adults in our house look forward to this autumn treat.
Not only were the seeds tasty and healthy, the baked flesh made delicious soups and side-dishes. It took creativity to interest my kids in pumpkin soup or bars, but with coaxing and family cooking activities, they experimented with and accepted this new flavor. Their father already loved pumpkin pie, so that helped to encourage the girls to explore new foods.
When our vines produce abundantly, the oven warms autumn evenings as cleaned and halved pumpkins roast slowly in the oven. Once they are done, I scrape their soft flesh from the rind, puree it , and store it in freezer bags in two cup increments, perfect for most recipes. Throughout the year, I retrieve a batch as I need it to concoct warming soups, healthy breads and puddings, and the always-popular traditional pumpkin pie.
Pictures of our “grand” patting and hugging pumpkins did more than connect me to the patch that grew it and to memories of old time harvests. It sent me on a search for new recipes to use for lucky decoration on my back porch. I’m thinking some pumpkin chili or maybe fudge will add sizzle to the taste buds at our house.