The month that boasts Thanksgiving (in Canada) and Halloween is synonymous with pumpkins. They show up in pie on many Thanksgiving dinner tables and later as Jack-o-Lanterns decorating many houses, but there are other recipes and activities with which to enjoy this versatile vegetable.
When it comes to pies at Thanksgiving dinner, I will always choose pumpkin pie. A few years ago, David gifted me The Oh She Glows Cookbook. It contains this recipe for vegan raw pumpkin pie. I know VEGAN and RAW do not sound delicious to most people, BUT this is the only pumpkin pie recipe that I will make now. Even David’s parents like it. Try it, I dare you!
Of course, there are lots of other ways to enjoy eating pumpkins. Some of our favourites include pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin chocolate bread, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, pumpkin orange spice cake, and pumpkin gnocci. We have also tried turkey pumpkin chili (not our family’s favourite) and pumpkin-apple soup (we prefer yam-apple soup).
Did you know you can drink pumpkins, too? Well, the masterminds at Starbucks figured out how in 2003. This still seems bizarre to me, but the pumpkin spice latte (PSL) is everywhere. I only started drinking coffee early last year, so last October I had my first PSL. It was delicious, but expensive. There must be a way to make this at home, I thought. After doing some searching and experimenting, I settled on this recipe. My only change to the recipe is to make it with coconut milk. (Everything tastes better with coconut milk.)
Not all pumpkins end up in someone’s belly, though. When I was growing up, my family always bought pumpkins from the grocery store for us to carve into Jack-o-Lanterns at Halloween. But there is another way to get your pumpkins: straight from the patch.
For the past few Octobers, we have made going to the pumpkin patch a family affair; we bring along David’s parents and brother’s family. We are not sure yet if the kids love this activity more than their grandparents. We like this farm because it is easy to get to, provides a hay ride with musicians (fiddle, banjo, harmonica, etc.), hay to roll in while you wait for the wagon, farm animals to watch, apples to snack on after the trip to the pumpkin patch, and a live stage with music and entertainment. Plus, there are lots of pumpkins to choose from.
However, last year, I got the (crazy, David might say) notion to try to grow pumpkins in our tiny backyard. I thought it would be a fun project with the kids. I randomly selected a site and we plopped in the seeds. We were in for a surprise. The pumpkin plant not only grew well, it took over. I was training the pumpkin plant along our fence every day and had to wrap the pumpkin in pantyhose because it was growing half-way up the fence. The disappointment was that the plant only produced one pumpkin and it was green at Halloween.
Well, we saved seeds from last year’s pumpkin and planted again. And again we have a monster pumpkin plant taking over our backyard. (It has become a joke with our neighbours.) This year I had a better idea of where to locate it to limit the training and maintenance. Disappointingly, there is still only one pumpkin. Hopefully, it will be orange by Halloween.
Whether you go get a pumpkin from the patch yourself, buy it from the store, or grow one in your backyard, once you have it, you are ready to carve. Part of the fun of carving a pumpkin into a Jack-o-lantern is cleaning out the pumpkin and collecting the seeds for roasting (the other part is coming up with your design!). If you have not tried roasting your seeds before, please try it! You can rinse the seeds with water, dry them and lay them on a baking sheet. Season the seeds (e.g. salt and pepper, garlic powder, chili powder), roast and then enjoy as a healthy snack while you carve (or add to a salad if you have leftovers).
On November 1, pumpkins usually take a trip to the compost, but they do not need to go so immediately. We have been turning our Jack-o-Lanterns into bird feeders. You can cut the pumpkin in half, string up the bottom (like a bowl), and fill it with bird seed. Otherwise, you can just cut out your lovely design, creating a large hole in the side of the pumpkin, then fill with bird seed. We love watching the different types of birds come for seeds. How long the pumpkin lasts as a bird feeder depends on the weather.
Don’t pass up the opportunity to experiment with pumpkins this October!