Our global market allows us access to foods from anywhere at any time, and while grocery stores may be cheap, predictable, and convenient, we often forget the many negative side effects that have also resulted from our modern food system. These issues are important reasons to consider eating sustainably. In the long run, what we choose to eat is critical to our health and overall well-being.
Eating seasonally is one of the many ways that you can support sustainable agriculture. Though you may not always be familiar with what foods are in season and when, Autumn happens to be the perfect time to begin your seasonal approach to food. After all, they don’t call it the “harvest season” for nothing!
The pumpkin, arguably one of the most famous Fall fruits, also happens to be unexpectedly easy to work with. This comes as a surprise, since it seems that many are more likely to cut into a pumpkin to carve out a silly face than to cook it. They might be a Halloween tradition, but don’t let these orange monsters scare you. Here’s a simple “trick [and] treat” guide to pumpkins:
What pumpkins can I eat? Which should I stick to carving?
There are many different pumpkin varieties. The orange field pumpkins are normally used for carving because they tend to have dry, flavorless flesh. Luckily, the smaller more manageable sizes are typically better for eating. The darker orange, red, and green pumpkins are best. Don’t neglect winter squash because of the name. Every pumpkin is a squash. If you’re looking to make a soup, like the recipe below, go with a winter squash. Look for those labeled “Cinerella” or “Blue Hokkaido”. These are French varieties, but they are grown locally.
How do I pick the perfect pumpkin? How can I tell if it’s ripe?
Pumpkins are ripe and good to eat if they‘re extremely hard. Do not pick a mushy pumpkin because you think they’ll be juicier or easier to work with. As for shape, that’s your own personal preference.
How do I cut into one of these things?
A pumpkin‘s tough round exterior may be a bit intimidating, so make sure you have a sharp knife. Before trying to remove the skin, first cut the pumpkin in half, vertically to one side of stem. Do not try to cut down the middle through the stem. Use your knife (a peeler will not be sufficient) to work your way around the body of the pumpkin to remove the skin.
Pumpkin Soup Recipe
Courtesy of Chef Vincent Gentile
Yield: approximately 6 servings
1 pumpkin (kabocha squash recommended)
1 qt. (4 cups) of water
2 cups milk (whole milk is recommended for best consistency)
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. brown sugar + 2 tsp. granulated sugar
1½ tbsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 tbsp ground ginger
A pinch of all spice
A pinch of ground clove
Salt & pepper to taste
Cut pumpkin into 1½ inch cubes after cutting the skin off and removing the seeds.
In a medium pot, heat 2 tbsp. butter over medium heat.
When butter is melted, add pumpkin cubes. Stir the pumpkin as to coat all surfaces with the butter.
Add sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and clove to the pot, stirring until the pumpkin is thoroughly coated.
Stir every minute or so, until the pumpkin begins to soften. When pumpkin is halfway cooked (about 20-25 minutes), add water.
Leave on medium heat and let the soup simmer. When pumpkin is cooked fully it will be very tender and easily mashed when pressure is applied. At this stage, pour mixture from the pot into food processor or blender. Mix on high as you simultaneously add the milk. Add as much milk as needed until the desired consistency is reached. This may require more than 2 cups. The soup should resemble a thick, but flowing purée.
Pour back into pot. Add salt and pepper to taste over low heat. Serve hot.
*To top it all off, garnish your masterful creation with some cinnamon-sugar croutons. THEY’RE DELICIOUS!
Butter — melted
*Exact measurements are not given. Start with 2 slices of bread and 2 tbsp butter and have faith in your own personal judgement.
Cut your favorite white bread into half inch cubes, discarding the crust. (Don’t be wasteful. The birds can benefit from your scraps.)
Coat in melted butter, enough to cover without saturating them.
In a separate bowl, mix equal parts cinnamon and sugar. Very generously toss bread cubes with cinnamon-sugar mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, flipping them after 5 minutes.