and Other Culinary Acts
by Kate Heyhoe
Full Pumpkin Recipes List (below)
Q: Which weighs more: the world's largest known pumpkin or the average sumo wrestler?
A: The average sumo wrestler weighs in at 336 pounds. Akebono, the Hawaiian Sumo Champion, tips the scales at a mere 507 pounds, while in 1996, the world's largest known pumpkin weighed a whopping 1,131 pounds.
Akebono's gargantuan weight may be an asset in his world, but bigger pumpkins aren't always better.
If you're looking for a cooking pumpkin that tastes good, stay away from big pumpkins—they're perfect for jack-o-lanterns and soup tureens, but their flesh is flat-tasting and stringy.
Instead, look for the smaller sugar pumpkins—they're sweet and non-stringy. At about 3 to 6 pounds, they have a shorter shelf life and are hard to find after Thanksgiving. They include such varieties as Sugar Pie, New England Pumpkin Pie, Baby Bear, Triple Treat and Lady Godiva, although most markets just call them pumpkins. Some 99 percent of the pumpkins stocked in markets are the huge field variety. If your supermarket doesn't stock sugar pumpkins, try a farmer's market or whole foods store.
Pumpkin Facts and Lore
Pumpkins can be cooked like any winter squash by baking, roasting or microwaving. Boiling or steaming results in a more watery flesh. Here are a few other items about pumpkins:
- Whole Baked Pumpkin: Cut off the top with the stem to use as a lid. Scrape out the seeds and pulp. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with salt, and if desired, a touch of sugar. Replace the lid and bake at 350 degrees until tender, about 45 minutes. For best results, brush with butter and season again after the first 30 minutes. Serve as is, cut into pieces, or scrape the flesh out and purée.
- Pumpkin in Pieces: Cut the pumpkin in half (you may need to whack it with a cleaver if it's especially tough). Scrape out the seeds and pulp. You can cook the halves or cut it into even smaller chunks. Bake, cut sides down, on a baking sheet at 350 degrees until tender. If microwaving, cook with cut sides up, on high, in a dish with a few spoonfuls of water.
- Pumpkin Seeds: Known in Spanish as pepitas, pumpkin seeds can be dried or roasted for crispy garnishes, snacks, or tossed into salads or bread doughs. Rinse them to remove any pumpkin fiber, then dry them in a low oven for 3 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally. You may also leave them in the sun to dry. Roasted pumpkin seeds have a toasted nut flavor. To roast 1 cup of seeds, dry them as described above, toss with 1 teaspoon oil and a touch of salt, then roast on a baking sheet at 250 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Food of the Ancients: Pumpkins, like other squashes, are native to the Americas, and squash seeds dating back to before 4000 BC have been found in Peru and Mexico. The Narraganset Indians called the plants "askutasquash."
- Selecting and Storing: Most pumpkins and winter squashes will last several months, although sugar pumpkins are best eaten within a few weeks. Select ones that are heavy for their size, firm, and free of decay or soft spots. Store winter squashes in a cool, dark, dry place.
- Pumpkin Seasonings: Enhance the flavor with sweetness, such as maple syrup or honey; or sweet spices, like cinnamon and ginger. Fruit pairs well with pumpkin as do such savory flavors as cumin, herbs, and chiles.
- Jack-o-Lantern Lore: Pumpkins actually replaced turnips, the original jack-o-lanterns. The Irish customarily carved out turnips into evil faces to scare away the spirits on All Hallow's Eve. When Irish immigrants arrived in the US, they found the pumpkin easier to carve and more practical for placing a candle inside.
- Pumpkin for Pumping Up: Personally, I recommend we all eat more pumpkin. It's abundant in beta-carotene, potassium and Vitamin C, low in fat, and high in fiber.
I use canned pumpkin in, of all things, meatloaf. The nutritious pumpkin purée adds a silky moistness and a rich, subtle flavor without making the meatloaf taste like pumpkin pie (add extra breadcrumbs or eggs to compensate for the added moisture of the pumpkin).
Pumpkin—it's a good thing, even for sumo wrestlers. For more pumpkin treats—beyond the usual Thanksgiving pie—check out the recipes below.
The Global Gourmet
Halloween Recipes, Features and Links
Thanksgiving Holiday Recipes
Kate's Global Kitchen for October, 2000:
10/07/00 Homework Helpers & Theme Dinners
10/14/00 A Transylvanian Dinner: Going for Goulash
10/21/00 Smashing Pumpkins...and Other Culinary Acts
10/28/00 The Edible Zombie: A Haunting Halloween Meal
Copyright © 1997-2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created October 1997 and modified October 2007