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The great pumpkin

"The Great Pumpkin" never did deliver gifts to Charlie Brown, but the "great" pumpkin does deliver in terms of nutrition and flavor.

Botanically, the pumpkin is a fruit because it grows from a flower. However, it is widely regarded as a vegetable in culinary terms, referring to how it is eaten.

Pumpkins are more than the stuff of Thanksgiving pies. The hulless or semi-hulless seeds of pumpkins can be roasted and eaten as a snack, similar to the sunflower seed. The seeds are a good source of essential fatty acids, potassium and magnesium.

A pumpkin can also be boiled, baked, roasted, or made into a great autumn or winter soup.

There are "about a million different varieties of pumpkins," says Craig Benedetti whose family has grown pumpkins for years in Grants Pass.

Not all pumpkins are created equal, however. Some are hybrids, and some are actually not a true pumpkin. Depending on what part of the country you live in, folks will refer to the fruit simply as squash, and it will resemble an oblong butternut squash.

There are varieties best for jack-o'-lantern carving and others that are best for eating.

Benedetti mainly grew Howdens, because they make "good carvers," he says.

In fact, the Howden variety is the market standard, the leader in commercial production of jack-o'-lantern pumpkins. The deep orange, large fruit with the sturdy "handles" is the one most of us are familiar with and buy each October.

So, what varieties are the best for food? What are the most edible?

Doreen Bradshaw of Seven Oaks Farm in Central Point recommends any of the sugar pie pumpkin varieties, the Cinderella or Wee-B-Little.

The sugar pumpkins, because they are "thick meated, and finer textured" are best for pies, says Bradshaw. "They are not stringy like the jack-o'-lantern pumpkins."

The Cinderella is a good cooking pumpkin, she adds. It's a unique French heirloom variety that is a beautiful bright, red-orange in color and is good for pies and custards.

Bradshaw's new personal favorite is Wee-B-Little. It is round, like a true pumpkin, deep orange and about the size of a softball and very good.

"They are fun," she says. "You can bake them whole. Remove the lid and the seeds, and add apple chunks, sugar and cinnamon. They are perfect, individual-serving size."

When the frost is on the pumpkin, why not harvest it for a special autumn culinary adventure. Baked or cooked, pumpkin adds a wonderful fall taste to any table - both savory and sweet.

seven oaks farm pumpkin soup

Doreen Bradshaw of Seven Oaks Farm in Central Point has a tried-and-true pumpkin soup recipe that's a favorite with her clan.

For fun, serve soup in individual, hollowed out pumpkins.

  • 1 quart rich milk or half-and-half

  • 1 medium onion, sliced

  • 4 cloves

  • 4 sprigs parsley

  • 1 clove garlic, pressed

  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 3 chicken bullion cubes

  • 2 cups cooked pumpkin

  • 1 teaspoon salt

    1. Cook all ingredients in a double boiler for 15 minutes.

    2. Strain through wire mesh strainer.

    3. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

    4. Serve with a pat of butter.

    5. Sprinkle with parsley.

    6. Serves 6.

    Curried pumpkin soup

    aka curried acorn squash soup

    Bill Brown, kitchen manager at Greenleaf Restaurant in Ashland, shares his Curried Pumpkin Soup with Homelife readers.

  • 2 small pumpkins (Pumpkin or any other orange-fleshed winter squash can be used in this recipe)

  • 1 cup carrots (diced)

  • 1 cup celery (diced)

  • 2 cups onion (diced)

  • 1 teaspoon garlic (minced)

  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger (peeled & minced)

  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro (chopped fine) (optional)

  • ½ teaspoon thyme

  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon curry powder

  • A pinch of each of the following:

    * nutmeg

    * cinnamon

    * powdered clove

  • 2 quarts vegetable stock

  • 2 cups soymilk

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil

    1. Roast the squash whole in a (pre-heated) 400-degree oven for 20-30 minutes. Remove and let cool. Once cooled, slice in half and remove seeds and skin.

    2. Sauté the carrots, onions, celery, garlic and ginger in the olive

    oil over medium-high heat until they begin to caramelize (brown). Use a stainless steel stockpot with a thick bottom.

    3. Add vegetable stock, cooked squash, herbs and all spices, except the cilantro. Simmer on medium-low heat for about 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat, add the chopped cilantro (optional) and let cool.

    4. In a food processor, puree the soup adding soymilk a little at a

    time. Add more salt if desired.

    5. Heat and serve. Serves 6-8.

    The great pumpkin