Just in case you were wondering…
Is it squash, a gourd or a pumpkin?
Cucurbitaceae is a genus of annual plants that typically have long languishing vines and produce fruits at the base of the blossoms. A plant family with a broad range of over 700 species that includes cucumbers, pumpkins, melons, and squash.
These are the earliest picked of the group and include cucumbers, zucchini, and crookneck. They are harvested when the seeds are immature inside and the flesh is still tender and edible. The vines are more bush-like and do not take up as much space in the garden. These can be harvested anytime they are showing their full color and size.
These are hard-shelled with little flesh inside, they dry and preserve well. In history, they have been used as musical instruments, spoons, bowls, and as a sponge (the luffa gourd). Ornamental gourds are grown most often for decoration and have many types of usual colors, shapes, and warty texture making them prized for fall decorations. Gourds are ready to harvest from the garden when the stems dry out and turn brown. Leave a few inches of stem attached to prevent rotting.
These fruits have harder skins that need a longer growing period. Hubbard, butternut, and acorn are a few familiar ones. Winter squash are warm-season plants. They differ from summer squash because they are harvested in the mature fruit stage; picked when the seeds inside are fully mature and the skin has hardened into a tough rind. Most varieties can be stored for use throughout the winter. Typically, they are cut open and baked to soften the insides with spices or meats to season them. Most have a nutty flavor and tend to pick up other flavors easily.
Pumpkins are a category of winter squash with the largest variety choices to grow and use. Typically used for decorating, there are many flavorful varieties to use for cooking too.
If you grew pumpkins in your garden this season the hot summer has been perfect for getting fruit up to size and now as the daylight hours get shorter and night’s cooler, pumpkins orange up.
If they are still a little green, leave them on the vine as long as possible to promote ripening. Harvest pumpkins when the color is deep and rich and the outside is hard. Leave 3 to 4 inches of stem attached to prevent premature rotting at the stem end. If you didn’t grow them, visit a local farm or farmer market. Pumpkin varieties vary from good carving to the sweet varieties for eating. Here are a few to look for: Carving pumpkins are typically grown for size and not for baking. Carvers to grow include Howden, Racer and Connecticut Field. For baking choose, the Cinderella pumpkin, Rouge VIF D’Etampes, Small Sugar and SnackJack. Unique novelties are Lumina (white skinned, yellow flesh), Baby Boo, Jack-B-Little and Jarrahdale.
Recipes to try
Just as the recipe name, the mush from inside the pumpkin that is the base used in cooking.
The pulp from sweet varieties are good for pies, soups, cakes and cookies.
Cut the pumpkin in half. Remove the seeds and fibers. Place the cut halves on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 350° oven for 20 to 60 minutes (depending on the size). The pumpkin is done when the skin is brown and you can easily push a fork through it. Allow to cool and scoop the flesh out of the skin. Puree or mash it. It should have a consistency of pudding. To preserve, pack into freezer bags in 2 cup quantities. Two cups of mash will equal about a 16 ounce can. Use in pies, soups, and cookies.
This brings back memories when I was little girl in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. We once had a Thanksgiving dinner at the Old Salem Inn. As a kid, the thought of pumpkin soup sounded weird, but the taste was good!
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups cooked, mashed pumpkin
3 cups half and half milk
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
½ teaspoon pepper
1/8th teaspoon powdered allspice
1/8th teaspoon ginger
Salt to taste
Garnish, fresh parsley and chives
In a saucepan, melt the butter, and then add the pumpkin. Stir well and add remaining ingredients. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Serve in bowls or mugs. If desired, top with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds, croutons, a dollop of sour cream, fresh parsley or small snips of chives.
Baked Acorn Squash
I remember the warmth of the kitchen and the aroma of maple syrup as my mom would bake up acorn squash as a side dish for dinner.
One acorn squash, cut in 1/2
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Scoop the seeds and stringy pulp out of the squash halves and discard. Lightly score the inside halves with a knife. Combine the brown sugar, butter, syrup in a small mixing bowl. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Rub and fill the cleaned cavities of the squash with the butter mixture. Place them on a baking sheet, cut side up. Bake for about 1 hour or until the squash meat is tender when pierced with a fork.