Whether part of a fall arrangement, carved with fun faces for Halloween or prepared for Thanksgiving pies, pumpkins are a common site these days-a true mascot of fall all bright and plump. While pumpkins come in many different sizes some are good for eating, like smaller sugar pumpkins; while other larger varieties are better for carving.
Pumpkins are native to Central America and have a colorful history. The name pumpkin originated from “pepon”, the Greek word for large melon. Many uses for pumpkin have been documented by Native Americans, who historically dried and pounded flat strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats. Pumpkin flesh had also been dried for food. Colonists sliced off pumpkin tops; removed the seeds and filled the inside with milk, spices and honey. This was baked in hot ashes and was the origin of pumpkin pie!
Ever wonder why pumpkins are orange? It’s because they contain large amounts of beta carotene and vitamin A, which can help to protect our skin and eyes. If you want to try pumpkin and don’t want to make pie or bake the seeds, try pumpkin butter. A pumpkin butter tasting here at the Conservatory was a hit with our guests and most preferred the pumpkin butter over apple butter.
To get started on this seasonal spread, scoop out the pumpkins. The flesh and pulp are used in pumpkin butter preparation; it is called pumpkin puree. Pumpkin scooping can be messy, but not to worry this is a fun job for the kids! You can discuss with older children that pumpkins are botanically a fruit and be sure to point out the seeds. You could even save some seeds for next year’s growing season.
Once the pumpkin is cleaned and hallowed (a 10 lbs. pumpkin is recommended), cut the pumpkin in half, placed on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes
Let the pumpkin halves cool and scoop out the remaining flesh
Blend pumpkin flesh to a smooth puree
Mix in a crock pot:
2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of allspice
4 cups sugar
Let the spiced puree cook down for 6-8 hours
Pumpkin butter goes well on breads and muffins