Pumpkins may be the Charlie Brown of vegetables. They’re largely ignored all year, until October or November. Then we carve them, smash them or even use them as projectiles. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, most of the nearly 2 billion pounds of pumpkin grown in the U.S. end up in landfills.
It’s a shame, because pumpkins are low in calories (1 cup contains 49 calories) and high in fiber, antioxidants and vitamins. Some health authorities believe pumpkin may protect the eyes from age-related macular disease.
Pumpkin is also incredibly versatile. It can be baked, stewed, fried, steamed or roasted. It’s a terrific addition to pies, pancakes, cookies, soufflés, stuffing, soups, breads and even beer. You can also roast the seeds for a heart-healthy road snack.
Pumpkins weren’t always an ignored food. “Pumpkin” comes from the Greek word “pepon,” meaning large melon. Historians think pumpkins originated in Central America 7,500-plus years ago.
Native Americans used to roast long strips of pumpkin over open fires. Clever American olonists invented pumpkin pie by scooping out the seeds and adding milk, spices and honey, and baking them in hot ashes.
Fall pumpkins are a terrific reason to go exploring. Communities across North America offer pumpkin patches, harvests, festivals and contests. In Ohio, the Circleville Pumpkin Show (October 19-22), one of the largest, features a biggest-pumpkin-pie contest and pumpkin-flavored donuts, ice cream and even pumpkin burgers.
Other great pumpkin celebrations include the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival in Laconia; The Great Pumpkin Farm Fall Festival in Clarence, New York; and in Cresthill, Illinois, Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm Pumpkin Festival offers the popular Sniper Zombie Paintball Ride. On the West Coast, you’ll find the Underwood Family Farms Fall Harvest Festival, where animatronic chickens cluck, in Moorpark, California; and in Washington state, Craven Farm’s Fall Festival in Snohomish offers a 3-D adventure projected onto the barn’s walls and a pumpkin slinger for flinging the orbs.
Pumpkin Cookies with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting
This makes deliciously soft, not-overly sweet cookies.
- 2⁄3 cup granulated sugar
- 2⁄3 cup packed brown sugar
- 3⁄4 cup softened butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1⁄2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin-pie mix)
- 2 eggs
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup softened butter
- 2½ ounces softened cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract v
- 21⁄8 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In large bowl, beat granulated sugar, brown sugar, butter and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally, until well blended. Beat in pumpkin and eggs. On low speed, mix in flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
Drop heaping tablespoons of cookie mixture onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until almost no indentation remains when touched. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. Cool completely (about 45 minutes).
Frosting: Beat butter, cream cheese, pumpkin and vanilla in a bowl with an electric mixer until soft and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, about ½ cup at a time, until frosting is smooth and spreadable. Frost cooled cookies.
Have a pumpkin recipe or festival you’d like to share?
Email Bobbie with “pumpkin” in the subject line.