– By Andrea Gaines
Pumpkins are not what they seem. They have secrets. Glorious, glorious secrets.
First, pumpkins are a fruit. A “fruit of the vine,” as they say. A fruit of the vine in a family of plants known as cucurbits – think cucumbers, melons, squash, etc. And, they are quite varied, ranging in size from one pound to over one thousand pounds.
Second, while the classic Jack-o’-lantern pumpkin is most often orange, pumpkins can be white, red, yellow, tan, green – even blue. They can be rough or smooth, ribbed or not ribbed. And, while used today to greet trick-or-treaters, the fanciful lanterns were originally used to ward off evil spirits.
Quite versatile, pumpkins are not just for eating, not just for scary lighting. Native cultures used pumpkins to remove freckles and to cure snake bites.
Finally, while we think of pumpkins as the main ingredient in a sweet and savory pie filling, the Pilgrims used pumpkins, not for the filling, but for the pie crust itself. Or, they made a soup out of pumpkin flesh and served it in the hollowed-out pumpkin. Or, they cut off the top of pumpkins, removed the seeds, filled the pumpkin with milk, spices and honey and baked them in hot ash. The original, crust-free pumpkin pie.
No wonder we love pumpkins. A colorful fruit – sweet or savory, big or small, nutritious or medicinal – that can also be turned into a porch light for eager trick-or-treaters.
October 26 is National Pumpkin Day, and October 21 is National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day. We also love chocolate, so let’s toss this in – National Chocolate Cupcake Day, October 18, which we have renamed, National Go Bare Orange Chocolate Cupcake Day.
As we celebrate this beautiful month of October, and the wonderful colors and temperatures surrounding us, let’s also pay homage to the pumpkin. See below for our ideas. The Secret Life Of Pumpkins … In The Kitchen. Fun adaptations of your favorite recipes with a twist.
We wish you a Happy Halloween – and every sweet or savory, big or small, nutritious or medicinal, scary or not day – in between!
The Secret Life of Pumpkins … In the Kitchen
Your Favorite Recipes, with a Twist
The Main Ingredients: Butter, onion, carrots, fresh roasted pumpkin or canned pumpkin puree, sage, chicken or vegetable stock and cream/salt and pepper.
The Special Touch: serve the soup in a hollowed-out pumpkin topped with a dollop of sour cream topped off with a spoonful of cinnamon-laced applesauce.
The Main Ingredients: Cream cheese, eggs, pureed pumpkins, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, flour and vanilla.
The Special Touch: For the crust, substitute crushed ginger snaps for the traditional graham crackers, and spike your whipped cream topping with brown sugar.
Go Bare Orange Chocolate Cupcakes:
The Main Ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, dark chocolate, eggs and milk.
The Special Touch: In a word … skip the icing and zing things up with a little orange; add orange zest to your cupcake batter, and top your cupcake, not with plain old icing, but with a fresh or dried mandarin orange slice dipped in melted chocolate and finished off with a shake of cocoa powder.