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Getting Fresh! with Dan"The Produce Man" ®

  
Pumpkins

Written for The Alameda Sun October 2003

It's that time of the year again (already) when the produce stands are filled with bins of mini pumpkins, Jack-o-lanterns, gourds and baking pumpkins.

Although the conventional produce market concentrates primarily on Jack-o-lanterns throughout the month of October, the organic market is already pushing the baking pumpkins.

New England sugar pie pumpkins, white baking pumpkins, big max, and several more! All of which are edible.

My favorite pie pumpkin is the Australian Queensland Blue. It has a gray/green skin and a deep orange flesh. I love this pumpkin because it is thick and meaty and has the perfect flavor for pies. The seeds are plump and meaty also and are great roasted.

Next in line for baking is the sweet flavored white pumpkin or Lumina variety. This is also a dense fleshed pumpkin with thick seeds.

Both pumpkins are available on the market right now as well as the New England Sugar Pie, the Mystic & the Green fairytale varieties, but it is an up and coming variety pumpkin popular on the commercial organic market that is taking the cake or should I say the pie? The Cinderella variety pumpkin grown in back yards for years and on small pumpkin patch farms as a novelty variety is tasty and dense fleshed. It is more flat or squatty with deep ribbed furrows. Look for it in shops that specialize in organics.

Whatever variety you choose, the perfect baking pumpkin should be hard and heavy with no soft spots or cracks. Check the stem area to make sure that there isn't any breakdown as short stemmed pumpkins will faster than long stemmed pumpkins.

To bake pumpkins knock the stem off with a hammer. (a slight tap will do). Cut it in half from stem to bottom with a solid sharp knife. Do not use a flimsy thin knife because you can cut yourself or even break the knife. A good whack with a cleaver gets the job done well. Remove the seeds with a large spoon and any stringy portions from the seed cavity. Place in a shallow pan cavity side down and bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Turn cavity sides up, reduce heat to 350 and bake an additional 15 - 30 minutes or until a fork goes through the flesh easily. Let it cool for an hour and then scoop the flesh out of the shell or turn it over and peel it. The peeling comes off easier when it is cooked. Puree Pumpkin in a blender. I recommend a hand blender.

Vermont Pumpkin Maple Pie (Makes 2 pies)

  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup pure Vermont Maple Syrup
  • 1 TSP cinnimon
  • 1/2 TSP nutmeg
  • 1/2 TSP ginger
  • 1/2 Tsp salt (optional)
  • 1 quart half & half
  • Mix in a big bowl

For a purely vegan version use 20 oz of Silken Tofu in place of the half- &-half and 4 ½ teaspoons of ENER-G culinary egg substitute instead of the eggs. Pour into two 9" pie plates in a half baked and cooled pie shell. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake 45 minutes longer or until knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let it cool for two hours Refrigerate for two more hours and serve.

Pumpkins are low in calories and have no saturated fats. They are Cholesterol Free and certain varieties are high in the antioxidants vitamins A which converts in the body to beta-carotene and vitamin C.

Save those seeds! From the Jack-O-Lanterns that the kids carve and from the pumpkins that you bake. You can store them over a period of a few weeks in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator until there are enough to roast. Place all of your scooped pumpkin seeds in a strainer in the sink and run some water over it, swishing them around with your hands removing the pumpkin strings as they loosen.

After they are cleaned add desired amount of salt or other spices and mix them around in the strainer until excess water falls into the sink. Lay them out on a cookie sheet or better yet a pizza pan with holes. Spread them around on the pan with your fingers. Place them in the oven (preheated) for about 25 minute at 200 degrees. Remove and let them cool for about 5 minutes before eating them.

Pumpkin seeds are high in Zinc. They are also rich in vitamins A, C, & E. Pumpkin seeds contain 30-40% protein, the highest presentation among seeds. They are known to help with the function of the bladder and have been experimental in soothing prostate problems. Pumpkin seeds are enjoyed around the world, in Italy, Greece, & Mexico as well as here in the Good Ol' U.S.A.