With Halloween now in the rear-view mirror and Thanksgiving just up the road ahead, one of my favorite foods is still being featured in magazines and on cooking shows and are readily available at grocery stores and roadside farms alike. Round, smooth-skinned, ribbed, and most often a bright sunshiny shade of orange, I always look forward to their appearance this time of year. Not only at our front door greeting neighbors and passersby, but on our dining room table filled with succulents, and soon to be sitting under a dollop of whipped cream and on top of a warm buttery flaky homemade pie crust. Did someone say, “Heaven”? Oh, that was me! I’m so happy to be reunited with my cucurbita friends, commonly known as squash, and in this case, pumpkins in particular, that I just had to write a little ditty in their honor. So here goes…
Little pumpkins, big pumpkins
Stout, sturdy and round
Embraced by flowery vines while
Resting softly on the ground.
When ripe enough to pick
They can be enjoyed in many ways
Every autumn in pies and soup
And in fun displays!
I once thought of pumpkins as a member of the vegetable family, but I’ve learned that they are not akin. Since they originate from seed-bearing flowers, they are classified as fruit. And by definition, these orange marvels can be considered berries, too! Berries, really? Really. Because berries are simply fleshy fruits that contains many seeds, it qualifies as such. I guess I get that, but when I think of berries, I think of petite sweet treats I can easily hold in my hand and pop into my mouth, one after another. Pumpkins as berries? No. As fruit? Yes.
From my notebook: July 9, 1999 On vacation in Nova Scotia, Canada
“On our own today, heading to the Long Pond where ice hockey was born, then to a nearby farm famous for growing huge pumpkins!”
I still have the postcard I bought while exploring the Bay of Fundy and Annapolis Valley where we indeed visited the Dill farm in the town of Windsor. Howard Dill, its owner until his passing in 2008, was a full-time farmer and self-taught plant genetics scientist. He was also a world champion pumpkin breeder who patented his “Atlantic Giant” variety in 1979. After spending years tweaking and perfecting a line of super heavy-weight pumpkins, Dill took top honors in an international pumpkin weigh-off with an impressive 439-pound specimen which also earned him the title “King of Pumpkins”.
Today, Dill’s Atlantic Giant seeds are still sold through Howard Dill Enterprises and pumpkins sown from these seeds typically produce a 400-500 pound fruit. And, I read one of the largest of these pumpkins ever recorded actually weighed in at a whopping 2,009 pounds! Talk about humongous! Imagine the amount of seeds in that one– oh my gourd!
Since we are still in the season of pumpkins plentiful, I am taking full advantage. Last week, I made Michelle Tam’s Pumpkin Bar recipe that combines almond flour with cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, pumpkin puree, eggs, and a touch of honey and vanilla. The result? Moist, not overly sweet baked goodies that are a perfect accompaniment to a cup of soothing Jasmine tea. Mmm.
In addition to flavoring muffins, pies, and soups with their richness, I love glamifying their outside shells, prettying them up a bit. It’s fun taking plain Janes and transforming them into showstoppers with just a handful of art supplies. My favorites include acrylic paints, tissue paper, glue, push pins, gems, washi tape, sharpies and images I’ve collected from books, advertisements, and cards.
For three years running, I have chosen two pumpkins just before Halloween for make-overs. The first two years, I flipped through magazines, and browsed online for inspiration, then mapped out how I would decorate them. Feeling more confident this time around, I just went with the flow to see what would happen. After fifteen hours sitting in our backyard, painting, bedazzling, and marking them, I have two pumpkins I adore. With the words Love, Peace and Sunshine handwritten on it, my hippie one has a warm and cozy vibe. My Zentangle creation has repeating patterns and ribs of different colors, giving it a more composed look. Each making me feel equally happy.
I hope you are thoroughly enjoying this autumn and all that it has to offer, like I am. Sweater weather, fall holidays with family and friends, and beloved pumpkins. In my opinion, pumpkins are welcome to hang around as long as they’d like. They are real beauties. Both, inside and out!