Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pumpkin Seeds Galore and More

Okay, so it's a little late; Halloween was over two weeks ago but it just now occurred to me to share the story of our jack-o-lanterns (or "punkies" as my one and a half year old enthusiastically calls them). I walked down an alley the other day as I am wont to do (see posts Sept 5/10 and Nov 7/11), and I saw a garbage can; the lid was ajar and I could see a somewhat soft orange orb seated atop a bulging garbage bag. In another alley on another day I saw two pumpkins that had been placed in the overgrown grass next to a garage at the alley's edge, now slowly leaning into the landscape. These sights saddened me not because our city has bins for yard trimmings and compostables but because pumpkins are so delicious.

Gramps and Oaks at the bird sanctuary.
For me, the pumpkin is an integral part of Halloween. Back in my single days I had pumpkin carving parties even though I never lived anywhere that got trick-or-treaters; it was all about the resultant festive lanterns, roasting the pips, and drinking mulled wine. This September we took the kids and one set of grandparents on what is becoming my new pre-Halloween tradition, an annual visit to a nearby island bird sanctuary and pumpkin patch. We picked our pumpkins with care, checking out the full array before making our selection. At home, we placed them on our front porch as a seasonal display until they met their demise on the afternoon of the 31st.

Both my husband and I were naively looking forward to carving  pumpkins with our little guys looking on. The reality was somewhat less than ideal. The toddler had no interest in helping to scoop out the cold innards of the pumpkin and both kids commenced crying while we wrestled the gourds and wielded knives. I managed to get the seeds in the oven with a bit of salt and Old Bay (though they're equally as good with a little cinnamon and sugar). Pumpkin pips are also known as pepitas in Mexican Spanish or passatempo in Greek literally meaning "pastime" which I love.

This year I carved mine like this.
After the festivities of the big night I was left with these two gorgeous, homegrown, handpicked pumpkins that I couldn't just compost so I have been cooking, freezing, and baking up a glorious orange-colored storm. (I should note that I made a point to use soy candles with lead-free wicks inside our jack-o-lanterns as I knew we'd be ingesting them.) Last year, finding myself in a similar situation, that is, with masses of pureed pumpkin on hand, I discovered what has become a household standby, Squashy Mac n' Cheese (adapted from this recipe, it's essentially pasta in a chicken stock and squash sauce sprinkled with breadcrumbs and cheese and baked). As I had a teething seven month old last Halloween I also froze chunks of pumpkin skin for him to gum. This year my discoveries include pumpkin hummus, pumpkin ginger scones, and highly recommended pumpkin butter. And so I can happily report that my pumpkins did not end up in a landfill but were an essential part of filling up my family with a little compost leftover.

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