Food With Friends: Fall pumpkin paradise

By Meaghan Sands

With Halloween just a couple weeks away, the Cal Poly Pomona Pumpkin Festival at its end and the sight of spooky decorations going up in the neighborhood, it’s starting to really feel like fall; except for this warm weather we’re having. I can’t wait until this weather cools down and I can wear a sweater, scarf, jeans and boots to school and work every day.

One thing that I feel really foretells the fall season is the sight of pumpkins, whether they are in the grocery stores, on people’s porches or on our plates.

With the fall season comes pumpkin everything: pie, breads, cookies, muffins, shakes, soups and a slew of other delectable treats.

Not only that, but when pumpkins come to town they bring the rest of their family with them.

Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which includes squash, zucchini, cantaloupe and watermelon. We tend to associate the latter with summer foods, but squash is another food in full swing during the fall.

Squash come in all shapes, sizes, colors, textures and flavors; just like pumpkins do.

There are about 30 different varieties of pumpkins. The one that most people will carve at home for Halloween is probably a Connecticut Field Pumpkin.

Some other interesting pumpkins include Long Island Cheese, its deep orange color and flattened shape suggests a wheel of cheese (hence the name); Iron Man, these small sturdy pumpkins have super hard shells and feel just like a cannonball when held in the hand; and Lumina, a ghostly white pumpkin with orange interior flesh.

If you want to find an out of the ordinary pumpkin for Halloween this year, Jack Creek Farms in San Louis Obispo County is one of the many farms that sell a variety of interesting looking pumpkin and squash.

Pumpkins have been grown in North America for 5,000 years and were initially called “gros melons” by Jacques Cartier, a French explorer, in 1584. That name was translated into English as “pompions” and eventually evolved into the present name, “pumpkin.”

Pumpkins are a versatile food. You can eat the flowers, flesh and the seeds. You can bake, cook and can the flesh. You can dry them out and turn them into gourds. Finally, you can do what seems to be the most popular thing to do with a pumpkin here in the U.S.: Carve it.

This tradition is quite interesting considering the pumpkin carving custom didn’t originate here in the U.S. It actually began hundreds of years ago in Ireland where they carved potatoes and radishes.

When immigrants from Ireland came to the U.S. they discovered the pumpkin and began using it, and it’s been this way ever since.

Pumpkins are a healthy food all of us can add to our diet (and I don’t mean an extra slice of pumpkin pie). They are rich in vitamins A, B, potassium and iron. They are also high in protein and fiber and low in calories, fat and sodium.

Nineteenth century New Englanders believed pumpkins could cure some interesting ailments. Unfortunate enough to get a snakebite? Did you have unwanted freckles or wrinkles on your face? Did you have a dog or cat with diarrhea or constipation? Were you a man struggling with “strangury” (urinary troubles)? They had the cure: Pumpkin.

Today, farmers grow more than 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin each year; though we’ve left the New Englanders’ cures behind.

In the U.S. some people have found some fun ways to put pumpkins to use. In Delaware, for example, they host the Annual World ‘Punkin Chunkin’ Championship where pumpkins get launched from air cannons about 5,000 feet up into the air.

So whether you’re taking part in a ‘punkin chunkin’ competition, attending your local pumpkin patch or pumpkin festival or carving a spooky Jack-O-Lantern, I hope you find some new ways to put your pumpkins to good use.

Here is a quick idea for you: When carving your pumpkin, remove, wash and dry the seeds. Then bake them in your oven with your favorite seasoning for a healthy snack packed with protein.

Remember, when you put your pumpkins out on Oct. 31, “mischief makers” will have 13 hours to smash them. So beware.

Food With Friends

Food With Friends

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