Great Pumpkins: Eye Candy and Great Eating!{19}

heirloom pumpkins on displaySome stylish pumpkins rockin’ the boardwalk.

Rotting remnants of October’s once artfully-carved pumpkins stain a stoop or two on my quirky island, but for the most part, the jack-o-lanterns of All Hallows’ Eve are bedding down for the winter in a comfy compost pile.

Pumpkin on a pedestal: Boston Marrow, the Venus de Milo of Squash

And yet in my home, the really great pumpkins, the culinary kind, take respite from the rain and chill on a mantle, plant stand, pantry shelf, or as an occasional doorstop, all awaiting their delicious destiny in a soup, pie, gratin, puree, bread, muffin or cheesecake. Here’s a list of some of my favorite edible pumpkins (though Iran is yet untested, and untasted). This once rare wonder from Down Under is now readily available from several heirloom seed sources. The plant is vigorous and the small to medium size pumpkins many. Another greater roaster, this squash boasts a solid meat interior with a very small seed cavity. Prolific Buttercup (Burgess) squash is a nice choice for the small garden and those liking a serving size squash. It’s perfect halved and baked, or stuffed with wild rice or savory bread custard. Galeux d’Eysines pumpkin, a perennial favorite of mine, bakes up nicely into one fine pie, and has also been known to bring home an award or two. Beneath its warty complexion (caused by sugary starches), you’ll find a rich flesh perfect for roasting and pureeing.

ornamental winter squash This is the first year I’ve grown Iran, a stunning squash unmatched in outward appearance. As for its inward qualities, the jury is still out. From what I’ve now read, the uncommon squash is a bit watery and flavorless.  At some point, I’ll venture to cook it, but at this stage in the season, I’d much rather look at it then to eat it.  Even if this Middle Eastern beauty cooks up short, it’s too beautiful not to plant again.

I discovered Long Pie pumpkin through my dear friend and baking buddy Deborah. She swears by them, which is good enough for me. The Long Pies are much like a giant zucchini though they do turn orange when fully ripe and tend to be great keepers that just happen to be stackable.  I had a meager crop this year, due to their poor placement in the garden and my intermittent watering schedule.

Queensland Blue pumpkin is another veggie work of art, and lucky for us, its deep lobes of jade hide a sweet orange flesh perfect for pies, soups, roasts or jams. And, it’s a very good keeper. (Taters are Makah Ozettes, a NW heirloom.) Sweet meat is a sweet choice, and an heirloom pick from the Pacific Northwest. It’s never failed me, grows easily in cool climates to a manageable size, and keeps longer than any other pumpkin I grow. If you wish to make pumpkin pie for Easter dinner, plant Sweet Meat in June. Another great vine for the small garden, Winter Sunshine gives you more squash for your square foot, producing (at least for me) five to six softball-sized fruit per vine.  In the eye candy department, I know of no deeper-hued squash and one that delivers an equally delicious punch to the palate.

Happy trails to you, and may your wheelbarrow always be full of pumpkins.

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