Eating the Great Pumpkin

Mike Cook

The pumpkin is not really something we eat here in America. Even when we make the fall favorite of pumpkin pie we use canned mashed pumpkin, which may have begun on the vine but looks as much like a pumpkin as a can of tuna looks like a fish with fins.

Sometimes you can find tasty toasted pumpkin seeds around, but otherwise, the pumpkin is generally something to be carved and, approximately 36 hours later, smashed by teenage hooligans.

It doesn't have to be this way. Save your Jack-O-Lantern from a horrific smashing by eating it first. You'll also save yourself a lot of time carving.

The cool thing about pumpkins is that they are almost by definition local and seasonal. (Whole pumpkins, that is. Who knows where your canned pumpkin comes from). Your whole pumpkin might come from the next state over, but unlike your beef, crab, chicken, rice, or pasta, it's not coming from Brazil or Indonesia or Africa.

(Speaking of which, some blogs have recently pointed out that chocolate makers often buy from cocoa plantations in Africa that use essentially enslaved child workers. If you want to find some ethical chocolates to give away this Halloween, check this.)

Back to pumpkin. You can feel good about eating pumpkin. You just have to learn how to do it. First, make a trip to the Helmand for some inspiration. Their baby pumpkin appetizer combines the tender sweetness of baby pumpkin with a tart yogurt sauce you will not forget.

There are a lot of other area restaurants, like Salt, Dogwood, and Miss Shirley's that are using pumpkin seeds, purees, or foams in seasonal dishes. If you want something a little more pumpkin-centered, you can buy pumpkin ravioli at master pasta maker's Velleggia's Casa di Pasta.

If you want big hunk of pumpkin, though, you're going to have to cook it yourself.

There are tons of recipes online, from pumpkin curry to spinach stuffed pumpkins to dozens of pumpkin breads, cookies, and brownies.

If you really want to show off your pumpkin, though (without getting it vandalized), go with something like this.

It's simple, prep is relatively easy, and it works with butternut squash and sweet potatoes too, so you can adapt it to whichever fall veggies you have on hand. You've got no excuse for wasting a pumpkin now, so if Jack turns out a little lopsided, you know what to do.

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