Pumpkins and Squash

Eating Pumpkin and Squash

Pumpkin and squash harvest

Pumpkins and squash symbolize autumn and harvest time. The sight of them, piled up and abundant, reminds us to be thankful for the fruit of the earth. They also taste great and are easy to prepare. They're so simple to store in your freezer that there's no need to ever buy canned pumpkin again. So next time you see these for sale at a farm market or a roadside stand, stop and buy a few. You won't be sorry.

When and Where to Buy

Pumpkins for sale!

You'll find squash in the supermarket all year round, but the time to buy local squash and pumpkins is in the fall. They are a long-season vegetable and take all summer to grow. You'll get better prices if you shop at fruit and vegetable stores or at the farmers' market. You'll get the best prices of all if you go for a drive in the country and buy directly from the farmers. Often there are roadside stands set up. Check the classified ads to get some addresses.

You might also check with your tourism information center. In our area, Circle Farm Tours are popular and brochures with maps are available. What a great way to spend an afternoon!

How to Prepare Pumpkin or Squash

Squash ready to bake

When I first got married, my mother-in-law told me how she cooked pumpkin. It sounded like so much work that I never tried it. Peeling a raw pumpkin is a thankless task.

Actually a pumpkin or squash is very easy to prepare. Wash the outside and dry it. Put it on a cutting board and use a heavy knife to cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds with a metal spoon. Save these if you want to roast them. Bake the halves cut side down in a baking pan at 350 degrees for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size and variety. That's it. So simple. You can even roast them whole and scoop out the seeds after, if the skin is hard to cut when raw. I usually don't choose this method because it's a little harder to separate out the seed pulp when the squash flesh is soft from being cooked.

Image Credit: Jack Kennard on Flickr. CC. Some Rights Reserved 

Freezing the Harvest

After you've cooked and cooled the squash or pumpkin, scoop the flesh out of the skin with a metal spoon, or cut it into chunks and peel off the skin, whichever is easier. You can now put it in freezer bags and freeze it for winter eating. 

Here's a tip. Measure the exact amount you need for your pumpkin muffin recipe, usually 1-1/2 or 2 cups. Put that amount in a medium freezer bag, press out the air as you seal it and flatten the bag into a rectangle. This way your bags of pumpkin and squash are easy to stack, take up much less space in the freezer, and thaw out quickly when you need one. Be sure write the measurement on the bag.

Some winter squashes are even more delicious than pumpkin in recipes so don't be afraid to substitute squash for pumpkin.

How to Keep Winter Squash

Winter Squash Varieties

Buy squashes that seem to be ripe and do not have soft spots or damage. The skin should be hard. Wash them well and dry them. You can cook them right away, or spread them out in a cool, dry place where there is some air flow - a porch or garage, not a cupboard. Check at least once a week. On average you'll find they will keep for a couple of months this way. If you start to find any soft spots, process the fruit immediately. Cut out anything that is a little punky, cook the rest and freeze or use the pulp right away. That's a good sign that you should process the rest of your stored squash as well.

There are many kinds of winter squash. My favorites are butternut, delicata, buttercup and spaghetti squash. 

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash

This is one of the most unusual vegetables I have ever come across. To cook it, wash the squash and slice across the width so you keep the full circle shape. Scoop out the seed cavity and the soft, stringy material you find in there. Put both halves cut side down on a baking tray, and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. You can also cook it in the microwave. Put one half of the squash cut side down on a microwavable dish such as a glass pie plate. Cook for about 11 minutes. Take it out of the oven and let it sit a few minutes longer, still cut side down, so the steam inside can cook it a bit more. Then use a fork to release and fluff the strands as you scoop them out of the shell.

Spaghetti squash as a side vegetable can be served with a little butter, salt and pepper. It's also a wonderful low-carb substitute for pasta. It tastes great with marinara sauce or pesto and cheese. Give it to someone who is gluten-intolerant, and they'll have a delicious meal. What's more, I've seen recipes for faux coconut cream pie made with spaghetti squash, although I can't say I've tried it myself.

Note: Lots of photos show spaghetti squash cut lengthwise, but if you want long strands of "spaghetti" you need to cut across the squash. 

Image Credit: Zlatko Unger on Flickr. CC. Some Rights Reserved  

Roasting Pumpkin and Squash Seeds

Instead of tossing out the seeds, you can roast them. Using your fingers, separate the seeds from the pulp in a colander under running water. Soak the seeds in salt water overnight, then drain and pat dry. Bake, stirring several times, or microwave, stirring every one minute, until crispy. (For more information about soaking seeds and nuts in a salt water brine: Soaking Nuts)

Vote in the Pumpkin Poll

Cookbooks

Squash: A Country Garden Cookbook
Regina Schrambling
Amazon.com:
Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash
Lou Seibert Pappas
Amazon.com: $13.13
The Compleat Squash
Amy Goldman
Amazon.com:

Pumpkin Muffins and Bread

Pumpkin Muffins

Moist, tender, mouth-watering.

If you're in the mood for baking, pumpkin muffins are a great choice. There are so many classic recipes for pumpkin muffins and loaves that I'll leave it to you to search out your favorite. But to get you started, here's a recipe designed after the Starbucks cream cheese pumpkin muffins.  

Also, here is a wheat-free, low-carb muffin recipe that makes a single jumbo muffin or mini-loaf: Individual Pumpkin Bread. I suggest that you substitute stevia for Splenda. This would be a good choice for someone who is gluten-intolerant.

Image Credit: Mlle. Peterson on Flickr. CC. Some Rights Reserved 

Pumpkin Spice Pudding

gluten-free sugar-free pumpkin spice pudding

This is a wonderful little recipe that I use every Thanksgiving and all through the fall and winter. We have a lot of diet restrictions in our extended family, so it's great to have a dessert that tastes like pumpkin spice but is low calorie, low carb, gluten-free and contains no sugar. And it's so much easier to make than pumpkin pie!

Pumpkin Pudding Recipe 

Pumpkin and Squash at the Table

Miniature Pumpkins

Miniature pumpkins loved by everyone

If you want to eat pumpkin, you'll buy a pie pumpkin or even a jack-o-lantern pumpkin. Miniature pumpkins are edible but the size makes them too fussy to cook with. Their real purpose? Decorating. They look wonderful in a basket or  grouped on the table as a centerpiece.  

Children love them too. They're great for crafts and autumn activities of all kinds. 

Other Pages About Gardens and Produce

Share Your Thoughts

Comments

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28 leaves
1103 forum posts
Bonita on said:
The images on this leaf are beautiful! I used to have a neighbor who would leave squash from his garden in bins by the side of the road with "FREE" signs on it. He would also leave peppers on a table in his backyard that were free to any neighbors that wanted to stop by and get them. But, alas, he moved away!

Once a friend of mine visited Walmart right after the holidays and they still had a huge bin of cooking pumpkins that they were selling for about 50 cents each, but they weren't selling well. She offered a price for the whole bin and they sold them to her! She cooked pumpkin for days on end and tried to sneak it into every kind of food imaginable for a year. She gave away plenty and still had a huge supply. Sometimes it pays to ask!

Thanks for the lovely leaf that's getting me in the mood for autumn!
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49 leaves
363 forum posts
Wonderful stories. What a great neighbor! And I like your friend - she knows an opportunity when she sees it.
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32 leaves
41 forum posts
Pastiche on said:
I absolutely love winter squash and pumpkins. I eat them nearly year round fresh, and try to freeze some of the last of the winter keepers to tide us over in the summer when I'm craving a bowl of squash soup before the harvest comes in. I've had terrible luck with my garden this year so I may not have any home grown but I'll definitely get plenty of winter squash at the farmers market this fall (not that long now ...).
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49 leaves
363 forum posts
I'm sorry your garden hasn't done well. That is disappointing. Thankfully squash are abundant and cheap in the fall so you'll be able to find your winter's supply, I have no doubt. There's a farm store not far from me where they have bins after bin squash - every kind you could imagine. It's hard to stop at ten ... or fifteen ... or twenty.
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7 leaves
36 forum posts
Butterfly on said:
I love eating members of the squash family! Recently a friend mixed some spaghetti squash with tomatoes, zucchini, and grated cheese to make a yummy salad for us. I need to try it at home.
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101 leaves
2106 forum posts
bill on said:
I've seen spaghetti squash but didn't know there is actually spaghetti-like pulp in the middle. Sounds a lot healthier than pasta, I'll have to give it a try.
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6 leaves
3 forum posts
mysteeqz5 on said:
Love squash not a fan of pumpkin though except for carving.
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49 leaves
363 forum posts
Jack-o-lantern pumpkins tend to be flavorless and watery. But a sugar pie pumpkin - now that is worth eating!
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122 leaves
1151 forum posts
I can still remember the delicious smooth taste of baked squash smothered in melting butter, salt, and pepper. I had it at a neighbors home when I was about 12 years old and it was such a unique taste sensation that I have never forgotten it. Love your wonderful all inclusive article on pumpkins and squash. You brought me back to a very pleasant memory.

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