Linus waits for the Great Pumpkin to bring him treats on Halloween, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother turns a pumpkin into a magical coach to take her to the ball, and scary carved pumpkins have the power to keep away bad spirits. Pumpkins have some very imaginative and magical purposes associated with them. One might worry that the edible uses for pumpkins are being ignored. As much fun as pumpkins are for carving, decorating, and scaring, they are also delicious, nutritious, and very practical.
In the right climate, anyone can grow a pumpkin. Though they grow best in warmer weather, pumpkins are hardy plants. Their leaves help to protect the plant and soil from the sun and help to keep in moisture. With sunshine and water, a pumpkin plant can grow quite happily and in some cases maybe too happily. A world record was broken recently with a 1689 pound pumpkin grown in Rhode Island!
If want to eat a pumpkin, you will most likely choose a more petite size than the monsters grown for competition. Pick one that is small but heavy. If you are picking an organic pumpkin, its skin will be dull, not waxed, and it should have a green stem still attached. You can store a pumpkin for up to 3 months in the proper environment, which is important for surviving the winter months on a local diet.
Nutritionally, pumpkins are full of beta carotene (which you can tell by their vibrant color), an antioxidant with the potential to fight disease and protect against aging. Even more nutritious than the flesh of a pumpkin are its seeds. Some consider these a super-food. The carotenoids, omega-3 fats, and zinc found in pumpkin seeds have been thought to promote prostate health. The seeds also contain high quantities of protein, iron and phosphorus, important nutrients for everyone.
Cooking a pumpkin can seem intimidating at first, but once you've experienced the wonderful taste and understand the nutritional benefits, you can’t help but want more. There are plenty of creative ways to prepare pumpkin - pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin puree, pumpkin butter and, of course, pumpkin pie. A customary treat at Thanksgiving and Christmas, pumpkin pie will always be a favorite recipe!
And remember: Don’t be afraid of your pumpkin; pumpkins are for eating and not just for story telling!
If you're ready to create a tasty pumpkin pie, check out the recipe below from our favorite farm, Pie Ranch! Pie Ranch was a stop on our Eat Well Guided Tour of America in 2007. At Pie Ranch they grow all of the ingredients for the pies they make, even the flour. They sell these delicious pies at their very own Mission Pie shop in San Francisco, CA. If you aren’t near Davenport, CA, where Pie Ranch is located, you can always replace the "Pie Ranch grown whole Sonora wheat flour" with another wheat flour and still give this great recipe a try.
Pie Ranch Pumpkin Pie
Preheat oven to 375 ; rack in the center. Roll crust for 9-inch pie, preferably in glass pan. Build up a fluted rim. Glaze with egg yolk.
Whisk 2-3 eggs thoroughly
Then whisk in thoroughly:
2 cups fresh-cooked pumpkin or winter squash puree
1½ ; cups goat milk
½ ; cup sugar and 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ ; tsp fresh grated or ground nutmeg
¼ ; tsp ground cloves or allspice
½ ; tsp salt
Warm the pie crust in the oven until it is hot to the touch, letting the filling stand at room temperature. Pour the pumpkin filling into the crust and bake until the center of the filling seems set but quivery when the pan is nudged, 35 - 45 minutes. Let cool completely on rack, then refrigerate for up to one day. Serve cold, room temp, or slightly warmed. Accompany with fresh whipped cream.
*You can substitute 1½ ; cups light cream, or evaporated milk, or ¾ ; cup milk and ¾ ; cup heavy cream for the goat milk, or substitute 1 can sweetened condensed milk (without additional sweetener) for the whole ration of milk and sweetener combined.
Pie Ranch Pie Crust
Ours is a butter-rich crust, and very simple. If you want to increase the flour to butter ratio a bit, the recipe can accept some modification and still retain the delicious butter flavor. You can make this crust either by hand, with a pastry cutter or two knives, or with a food processor.
2 or 2½ ; cups freshly ground Pie Ranch grown whole Sonora wheat flour
2 sticks organic sweet cream butter
½ ; tsp salt
up to 1/3 cup of ice water, perhaps a few drops more if you use the full 2½ ; cup flour measure
flour for rolling
Mix flour and salt in a bowl or in the bowl of the food processor. Cut butter into ½ ; - ¾ ; inch chunks and add to the flour. Cut swiftly into the flour until the size of peas or smaller (with food processor this will likely take 3-4 seconds of processing, or 8 or 10 pulses.) Add ice water in portions until the crust begins to hold together. Turn out the unconsolidated pastry onto your work surface and, with the heel of your hand, rapidly and roughly smear it 6-8 inches in front of you by egg-sized clumps to make a final blending of butter into the dough. If the pastry is dry, sprinkle a few more drops of water in. Don’t overwork the dough. Form two cakes of dough about 5 inches in diameter, flour lightly, and refrigerate before rolling out, if possible.