It’s Pumpkin Season!
It’s the season for Jack-o’-lanterns, roasted seeds and pumpkin pie.
Although the world’s favorite squash originated in North America, it is now grown on every continent except Antarctica–and with over 80 percent of the American pumpkin supply becoming available each October, it’s no wonder we see so many windows and porches freckled with orange.
About one third of the pumpkin crop, mostly grown in Illinois, goes to canning. All the rest of them find their way across the country to feed insatiable demands for Halloween spirit and autumn decorating.
There are many varieties of pumpkin. Typically, smaller pumpkins will have more and better tasting “meat” for baking, roasting, pureeing and sauteing, while larger pumpkins will have bigger cavities ideal for carving.
Check out our favorite recipes for:
- Roasting seeds with different spices
- Old-fashioned pumpkin pie
- Savory pumpkin dishes, from soups to casseroles
- Chai pumpkin custards by local chef at Black Cat bistro, Eric Skokan (author of new book: “Farm, Fork, Food.”)
The Teal Pumpkin Project
This year, we’re seeing more and more teal pumpkins joining the ranks of their orange brethren, placed outside residences in high visibility so trick-or-treaters with food allergies know that it’s a house where they can get non-food treats, like stickers, slinkies, toys, balls, bookmarks and temporary tattoos.
If you’d like to try something new this year and make trick-or-treating available to all kids, try spray painting a pumpkin teal (Rust-oleum’s Lagoon color works excellent because it’s a paint and a primer in one) and placing it among the others on your porch or in the yard!
It’s Carving Season!
John Bardeen from Grampa Bardeen’s Pumpkin Carving Sets gave us some good advice on the best
ways to carve a design (click on the video links for additional guidance).
- Pick the right pumpkin by selecting one that’s nice and uniform, and taller than it is round. If you’re going to the patch, make sure to bring a sturdy pair of pruners to clip the pumpkin off the vine.
- Bring a printout of the design you wish to carve to the grocery store or pumpkin patch to make sure it easily fits on the broadest face of your choice.
- Prepare your pumpkin by using a marker to draw a circle on the bottom: a guide for where to cut the hole. John likes putting the hole at the bottom because the pumpkin is easier to lift with the stem intact, and easier to light as well. Make sure to make the hole big enough so you can fit your whole hand through, and cut out half of the circle at a time to ensure that you can pull the chunks of pumpkin back out. Tip the pumpkin on its side, remove the seeds and set them aside for roasting. Use the scoop to scrape the “goop” from the inner walls, rotating the pumpkin as you scrape. Pull out all the goopy contents and keep scraping the side of the pumpkin you are going to carve until its inner walls are one inch thick–this will make carving much easier.
- Place the pattern on the center of the side you’ve chosen to carve and tape it in place, making pleats by folding the paper periodically to make sure it lays flat against the carved surface of the pumpkin.
- Transfer the pattern to the pumpkin by using the steel poker to poke holes along the design lines on the paper. Poke holes closer together for small details and farther away for longer, straighter lines. When you’ve poked out the design, remove the taped pattern and inspect the holes you made in your pumpkin. If you’re having trouble seeing them, rub some flour on the surface of the pumpkin and they will show white.
- Carve your pumpkin’s design, starting with the more delicate features in the center of the pattern. Working from the inside of the design outwards makes sure that the walls can support your carving.
- Caring for your pumpkin by spraying it once daily with a solution of 6 parts water to one part bleach will keep it hydrated and slow down the growth of molds. Light it up with a candle, LED, or string of holiday lights.