The (Late) Great Pumpkin

I’m late. (Not in that way, silly.) White Rabbit late. White Rabbit - known for this ditty in the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland. “I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye! I'm late! I'm late! I'm late!”

It is this “elderly, timid, feeble, and nervously shilly-shallying” character [Source] that Alice follows down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, and in the last month or so I have been down a sort of rabbit hole of my own. The net result being that I posted no recipes or blog entries for all of October!

Yet I was surrounded by inspiration – the most noteworthy being pumpkins - everywhere – first for Thanksgiving and then Halloween.

Once Halloween's over, some Jack-o-lanterns get one last hurrah in November 1st Pumpkin Parades. Others land in garbage bins if they have not already been smashed in the street. As to what becomes of the hundreds of unsold pumpkins at every retail outlet – perish the thought. The pity of wasted pumpkin is that it is very nutritious – a source of fibre, a long list of vitamins and even more wondrous nutritional gifts in the seeds (also known as pepitas). 

That Spanish word is a tip off that pumpkins are native to North America (especially Mexico and Central America) and found their way abroad with the help of European explorers. Pumpkins are now cultivated on every continent except Antarctica. [Source]

Oh my how they’ve changed. The classic smooth, deep orange, ready-for-carving specimens now sit on racks next to pumpkins white, blue or covered in warts. Officially they may not all be pumpkins – although that depends on whether you use the terms “pumpkin” and “squash” interchangeably. Pumpkins fall under the umbrella of winter squash, most designated as a variation of cucurbita. There are so many varieties of winter squash, which unlike summer squash, do store well. I recently wrote about friendly farmer gifting me squash that I had not even seen before. Here’s a comprehensive guide to the squash you may be seeing at local markets.

The summer squash familiar to most are zucchini. I wonder if you have ever seen or used the summer squash called marrow – not to be confused with spaghetti squash? It looks like a large, fat, pale green zucchini and is used in the iconic Hungarian tökfőzelék - creamed marrow with dill. The word főzelék sort of translates to “creamed” – a “lame” word which to me never captures or communicates the eating experience. In Hungary this is so popular that the marrow is sold already cleaned, shredded and packaged in bags with the appropriate amount of dill. This is the first year we found no marrow anywhere – one farmer said that they simply did not flourish – perhaps suffering from pollination failure – oh those precious bees.

How do we use pumpkin / squash?

Roasted or as soup seem to be the most common uses. We often treat squash as a vegetable, but officially they are fruit and can be used in many sweets beyond the cliché pumpkin pie. For the record, here at KB, we enjoy pumpkin pie – but I let the 13th Street Bakery/Winery make that for me. 

And as someone with freckles, I should note that people have claimed that a pumpkin facial can fade freckles… maybe that’s a myth promulgated by the Anti-Ginger Movement – yes, "gingerism" (bullying of red heads) is a thing. Mind you, not all redheads have freckles.

While I do not usually share recipes that I have not yet tried and tested, here are some pumpkin / squash ideas I’m considering:

No piece on pumpkins would be complete without mentioning pumpkin spice (and the return of the pumpkin spice latte). Food Bloggers of Canada recently pulled together a round-up of pumpkin spice recipes. You can buy this spice mixture in bulk stores, or mix your own following the recipe included in the round-up.

I’m not even sure why I have been collecting pumpkin ideas. I hardly need them since I just won Allison Day’s newest book – Purely Pumpkin. I think of her as a “local” since she’s from Hamilton, and enjoy her blog Yummy Beet. Her first book - Whole Bowls - nicely captured a recent trend of combining healthy grains with everything your body and soul wish for “The Whole Bowls Formula page lists the required portion of each component (protein, starchy vegetables or fruits, non-starchy vegetables, grains, cheese and crunch or garnish)".  [FBC Review] I have not had a chance to make anything from her new book, but top of the list are Sticky Toffee Pumpkin Spice Pecan Truffles, Morning Glory Pumpkin Muffins (inspired by Detour Café in Dundas) and the Pumpkin Pie Smoothie Bowl.

Pondering pumpkins reminds me of how often pumpkin is now “sneaking” into recipes. Like Jamie Oliver who tricks his kids into eating their veggies by shredding carrots into a spaghetti sauce, many nutrition conscious recipe developers are playing creatively with pumpkin and squash.

A cake, for example, has wet and dry ingredients and in many carrot cakes the “wet” is oil. One recipe I peeked at calls for 1 ¼ cups – that’s 2475 calories for that one ingredient alone! My “go to” recipe for carrot cake comes from the health conscious Podleski Sisters who use only ¼ cup of oil and one cup of pumpkin puree.

My latest favourite “stealth pumpkin” treat is Pumpkin Date Spice Cookies from Mairlyn Smith - and that's the recipe I am linking to this blog post. Am willing to bet that, like me, you'll be making these often!

Squirrel! That’s me being distracted a bit. Before signing off, I am reminded of a CBC radio segment where the host was complaining about her Halloween porch pumpkin being destroyed by squirrels. She said she’d lived in her house for twenty years and had never seen this before. You really need to do this - into Google, type squirrels and pumpkins, and check out the image and/or video results. 

One more thing on the subject of squirrels – another CBC radio nugget. On a segment inviting questions, someone asked “Why do we never see baby squirrels?” So true!? Why have we never asked that question!? The expert answered that baby squirrels are born blind and may not venture away from the nest until they are 10 weeks old. At that point they are large enough that we “see” them as adults. They’re sort of “teenage” squirrels and their only distinguishing feature is that they do crazy things. So next time you see a squirrel swinging from a vine, or having an erratic race with some invisible buddy - or maybe chewing into a pumpkin - you know why.

Click on the word "Comments", below, to share your thoughts. What's your favourite pumpkin or squash recipe? Any squirrel stories? If you enjoyed this read, please take a second to click on "Like"!

[This time last year: "A (Clean) Apple a Day..."]

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