I love pumpkins. When I was very new to this country someone asked me to make a pumpkin pie. I was ecstatic and headed straight to the store to purchase, well, a pumpkin of course.
Pumpkin safely procured I began looking for recipes – this is pre-internet, if you can imagine, so I was actually looking through cookbooks and magazines. Nowhere could I find a recipe that began with “take one pumpkin and cut it in half” like I imagined any good pumpkin pie recipe would surely start out.
Halloween was right around the corner (I was convinced that’s when Americans ate pumpkin pie, I mean, why else was there pumpkins everywhere?) and realizing I just couldn’t wing it, I finally picked up the phone and called a distant relative in Iowa.
A wonderful and very supportive woman, she laughed and laughed and then she said the magic words:
“Pia, listen, go to the store and look for a yellow can that says ‘Libby’ on it – that’s the pumpkin you want. The pie recipe is on the back of the can.”
Well, duh! Who would have guessed that?
This rough start did not dampen my fondness for pumpkins: I just adore them and their close cousin, squash.
Did you know that all pumpkins are squashes and both squashes and pumpkins are fruits? They are however not gourds as gourds have a very hard shell and are not for eating.
Green or yellow garden squash – as we surely all know at this time of the year – can be turned into breads, or casseroles, or stewed, or creamed … there is rarely a squash shortage in the Inland Northwest.
Acorn squash are shaped like giant acorn, green and orange colored, and they are great for baking or stuffing.
Buttercup Squash are slightly smaller and dark green – they are good for baking, too. They can also be baked and mashed with butter.
Butternut Squash is light orange or yellow and shaped like a big fat pear. It’s often used in soups and stews, or as filling in ravioli.
Patty pan squash are the smaller UFO-shaped squash that come in different colors from white, to deep orange and green. Sliced and brushed with your favorite cooking oil, they taste great when barbecued.
Let’s end with the spaghetti squash: cut in half and baked cut side down, the inside of this squash can be scraped out with a fork and it will turn into a great substitute for pasta.
There are dozens of different squash and pumpkins out there and they are in prime season right now. Pick up a couple of different varieties and have a bake off at home – that’s both a fun and healthy activity for everyone.