Monday, October 31, 2011

The Great Pumpkin Sacrifice

Over the weekend we made our "sacrifice" to the pumpkin gods and carved up our pumpkins for Halloween. What would Halloween be with out the carved jack-o-lantern? Not the same to be sure, but the pumpkin is a New World addition to the Halloween traditions that originated in Europe. Before the pumpkin, turnips or rutabagas were carved into the vegetable lanterns.

The pumpkin is a New World vegetable that has been cultivated by the Native peoples of the Americas since ancient times. While the exact origins of the pumpkin are not known, pumpkin-like seeds have been found in Mexico dating back to 7000 and 5500 BCE. With what the pumpkin has to offer why wouldn't it be grown for thousands of years? It is a very easy to grow plant that provides copious amounts of nutritious, long-keeping food (both the flesh of the pumpkin and its seeds.) And as with many food plants, there are medicinal uses and healthful qualities beyond the simple nutrition it provides.

Back to our carving of the pumpkins, not all of our parings went into the compost bin. We saved the seeds for toasting and the pieces carved out for roasting. Some like the pumpkin flesh roasted with salt and olive oil. In my opinion that would work well with a pie pumpkin but not so with the bland flesh of pumpkin grown for carving. (What's the difference?) A little salt, black pepper, butter, and brown sugar is the way to go - you have to give it some flavor and my favorite way to cook a variety of winter squashes fits the bill.

And if you have never toasted the seeds, what are you waiting for? These are truly divine! Here's a recipe for toasting your Halloween pumpkin's seeds:

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
  • 2 c. Raw, whole pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • Salt to taste
Wash the pumpkin seeds and drain well. Toss seeds with butter and salt. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes in an oven preheated to 300 degrees. Be sure to stir occasionally and toast until golden brown.

I hope you enjoyed this look at the pumpkin and perhaps you may now consider it to be more than just something for decoration and pies. I wish you a happy Halloween and a wonderful Samhain!


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