Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween

 
295 horror pumpkin 2 b&w blue filter
Spooky blue hubbard squash, carved while growing to create scars.

When I was in Monterey last week with my camera club (Photographic Society of Orange County), I stopped by the Earthbound Farm farmstand for an organic, vegetarian lunch at their salad bar. Earthbound Farms was at the forefront of the large-scale, commercial organic produce movement in the early 1980s. They started out with 2.5 acres of organic raspberries and are now the largest growers of organic produce in the US, with 33,000 acres farmed by 150 different farmers. But their little farm stand in Carmel Valley still retains the feel of a family farm roadside outlet.

Earthbound Farm

Earthbound Farm roadside stand is decorated for autumn

pumpkin totem

Pumpkins impaled on a spike made a great totem pole.

Many fascinating varieties of heirloom pumpkins waited for someone to choose them and take them home: Queensland Blues, Jarrahdales, Rouge Vif d’Etampes, Fairy, Long Island Cheese, Kabocha, and of course the standard orange Connecticut Field pumpkins. Surfaces ranged from smooth to warty, with various degrees of ridging, and colors ran a rainbow from pale buff to orange to deep red and even to blues, grays and greens. Shapes varied from round to oblong to flat.

But how many of those pumpkins are going to just get tossed after Halloween? They’re FOOD, for heaven’s sake. The seeds can be salted, roasted and eaten, put out for the birds, or saved for next summer’s garden.

green and white pumpkinsridged pumpkinsThe flesh is what goes into pumpkin pies. I cut my pumpkins in half and bake them, scoop out the flesh and put it through a ricer. I freeze what doesn’t get used right away for pies or soup. At the very least, pumpkins can go into the compost bin instead of the trash can.

Each variety seems to have its own taste. I don’t care for the flavor warty pumpkinsof the white pumpkins. Too anemic in flavor as well as color. I think the taste of the Long Island Cheese or Fairy pumpkins is inferior to the Sugar or New England Pie pumpkins, but taste is a personal thing. Connecticut Field and Howden pumpkins can be too fibrous, although the flavor is fine. Queensland Blues are wonderful to eat, but you need military-grade equipment to cut into their hard shell. I cut my last Queensland Blue into cubes and cooked it in the crockpot along with chunks of grass-fed bison hump from our local farmer’s market, plus potatoes, onions and red wine.assorted pumpkins

If we get our community garden operational by next summer, I finally should have room to grow pumpkins. I’ve been saving seed from Halloween pumpkins for a couple of years now. They’ll last about five years. I also have some seeds of Amish Pie pumpkins from Ferry Morse seed company that I want try. And then I discovered the offerings at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They have a lot of unusual varieties from southeast Asia that could go into soups, stews, pies, risotto, tempura and stir-fries. So many pumpkins varieties, so little space, and only so many summers.267 organic sign

(To read more of Lou Murray’s environmental writing, see her weekly column, Natural Perspectives, in the Huntington Beach Independent at www.hbindependent.com, under columnists. This week’s column is on urban chickens! See it at http://www.hbindependent.com/articles/2009/10/29/blogs_and_columns/natural_perspectives/hbi-natural102909.txt/ It should remain online for 5 weeks.)

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I am retired from writing a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent, but I am still teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks.
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2 Responses to Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween

  1. Christina says:

    Hi,

    Would you know the name of the green pumpkins with the white marks? (fourth picture). I grew them in my garden last year and they were fantastic. Unfortunately I did not keep any seeds from the pumpkins. Now I’m on the lookout for them!

    • Sorry, Christina, I don’t know the name of those pumpkins. I don’t think I had ever seen this variety before. Good to know that they are good pumpkins though. They were growing at Earthbound Farms, and if you send them a link to the photo, maybe they can identify them for you.

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