Pumpkins and Sweet Potatoes
Two harvest-season jewels that have become an intrinsic part of classic autumn fare.
“For pottage and puddings and custards and pies,
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins, we should be undoon”.
This Pilgrim Verse from sometime around 1633 was the introduction to our pumpkin segment of the ‘Grow and Graze’ program last Tuesday. Seems that our Pilgrim forefathers were just as enchanted with pumpkins as we are today. Susan Thornbury helped us to understand the history and fascination with this much-loved fruit/vegetable.
*The early colonists ate pumpkins because they were available and they badly needed food.
*Pumpkins are Cucurbits, just like cucumbers and summer squash. They need warm soil, plenty of sunshine and regular watering. Additionally, they tend to be large plants that need room to grow.
*Timing is important when it comes to growing pumpkins. Many varieties take 100 days to mature. But even more important is soil temperature. Pumpkins want soil that is warm, but seeds will not come up if the soil is too hot. For our climate, that means the end of May to the first part of June is the ideal time to plant pumpkin seeds. It is advantageous to plant seeds since they sprout easily when their requirements are met.
*Pumpkins will perform best when planted in one to two feet of loose fertile soil with plenty of compost added to the mix. Raised beds are a preferred way to grow pumpkins in our area.
*Squash vine borers can be devasting to a pumpkin crop. Usually appearing in springtime, prevention is the best way to deal with the problem. Check under the leaves often for egg clusters. If found, smash them. Insecticidal soap can be used for prevention but use caution as it can be harmful to bees which are essential for pollinating the flowers.
*When selecting a pumpkin for outdoor decorating look for one that is blemish free with no soft spots or damage to the rind. A bit of stem looks nice and may help the pumpkin to last longer.
*For cooking, select a small 2 to 3-pound pie pumpkin. If purchasing canned pumpkin, look for the cans that say 100% pure pumpkin. Libby pumpkin is made from a variety that the company developed called Dickinson.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 ½ cups chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¾ cup chopped carrots
¼ cup chopped celery
4 cups chicken broth, divided
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup chopped leeks
3 cups fresh or canned pumpkin puree
1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
Garnish: toasted pumpkin seeds
In a large stockpot over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery and cook for 8 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
Add 2 cups chicken broth and simmer for 3 minutes; remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes. Pour the broth mixture into a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth; set aside.
In the same stockpot over medium heat, heat the remaining olive oil and butter. Add the mushrooms and leeks and cook for 6 minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown.
Add the remaining broth, vegetable-broth puree, pumpkin, coconut milk and red pepper flakes; simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Stir in the salt, lemon juice and thyme; simmer for 10 minutes. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds, if desired.
Yield: Makes 6 servings
Black-Eyed Pea-And-Sweet Potato Salad
2 medium-size sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 purple onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
⅓ cup lime juice
½ cup mango chutney
3 (15.8-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Bring potato and water to cover to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook 15 minutes or until potato is tender. Drain and set potato aside.
Sauté onion in hot oil in saucepan over medium heat 4 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and next 4 ingredients. Cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir together lime juice and chutney in a large bowl; add potato, onion mixture, peas and remaining ingredients, tossing gently to coat. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings