VICTORY GARDENS: On The Delicious Versatility Of Local Pumpkins And Squash
by Lisa Giroday, Sandra Lopuch and Sam Philips | The air is crisper and the days are noticeably shorter. It’s perpetually raining, the ground is covered by a blanket of leaves in a spectrum of reds, oranges, and yellows*, and squirrels are packing away the last of the remaining sunflower seeds. It seems us humans are also in hibernation mode, craving hearty foods and marathon television series watching sessions, whilst nestled under a blanket.
Oh, and today is Halloween.
What autumn crop represents this time of year best? Pumpkins! They’re an integral facet of the autumn harvest, ripe with seasonal nostalgia for jack-o-lantern carving and that festive pastime of teen angst, smashing pumpkins (not to mention running through corn mazes and scrubbing fake blood off of your face).
Botanically speaking, a pumpkin is a gourd-like squash of the genus Cucurbita and the family Cucurbitaceae (which also includes gourds). They are native to the Americas, with the oldest evidence of pumpkin-related seeds tracing back to between 7000 and 5500 BC in Mexico. Pumpkins come in an array of colours and shapes. Our favourite is a luminescent pale blue number called the Blue Hokkaido. A few other pumpkin varieties include Dills Atlantic Giant, First Taste Kabocha, Kakai, Lumina Pvp, Galeux D Eysines, Howden, Big Max…and the list goes on. Typically, pumpkins are capable of reaching a weight of over 75 lbs (34 kg). That’s the size of a large dog! In the competitive pumpkin-weighing sector, the current world record holder is Chris Stevens’s October 2010 harvest of a 1,810-pound Atlantic Giant pumpkin. Whoa!
What to do with all of these pumpkins? It’s not too late to consider having a jack-o-lantern carving party (listening to heavy metal while doing so is completely optional). You can save the innards and make a pumpkin pie, and roast the seeds for day-after snacks. You can also make pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin soup, or a pesto from the seeds, and you can always team up with a beer-producing friend to make pumpkin beer. Pumpkins exemplify the nose to tail dining philosophy, so use your imagination.
Where to find: UBC Farm had some beautiful pumpkins last we saw – and they are still available while supplies last. Also, hit up the farmers market this weekend, as there are pumpkins-a-plenty.
*consider saving these leaves to mulch your veggie beds.
Victory Gardens is a team of local urban farmers for hire. Lisa, Sandra and Sam help transform tired or underused residential and commercial green spaces into food producing gardens. Their goal is to challenge the way communities use space and to participate in the change needed to consume food more sustainably. For the rest of the growing season, they’ve hooked up with Scout to share some cool tips and tricks on how to get the best from of our own backyards.