Pumpkins! These hard-working, multi-tasking gourds aren’t just for carving jack-o-lanterns and making floral arrangements. While the most popular pumpkins today are grown to be home décor rather than pie filling, in the early days of our country pumpkins were an important food crop for humans and livestock alike. Fortunately, the more tender, tasty, pumpkins have not been entirely forgotten. Heirloom pumpkin seeds are available for those who want to grow the old-fashioned kind, (check out seedsavers.org or burpee.com) and the flavorsome varieties like Cinderella and Sugar Pie, which cook up a little better than the standard jack o’lantern type, are becoming more readily available at farmers’ markets and grocery stores.
Here are some fun facts about pumpkins and, as you can expect from Southern Living, some delicious recipes using one of our favorite ingredients of the fall season:
Early Native Americans had many uses for the pumpkin: they roasted, baked, parched, and boiled the sweet flesh, adding the pumpkin blossoms to stews. Dried pumpkin could be stored and ground into flour, and dried pumpkin shells were used as eating vessels and storage containers.
Columbus found pumpkins in the New World and sent seeds back to Europe.
Native Americans introduced pumpkins to the Pilgrims in the 17th century, and they soon became an important and nutritious food source during the winter months. A poem dating from the 1630s tells the important role pumpkin played in the colonists’ diet:
Stead of pottage and puddings and custards and pies, Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon, If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.
In early colonial days, pumpkin shells were used as a template for haircuts to ensure a round and even finished cut. As a result of this practice, New Englanders were sometimes nicknamed “pumpkinheads”.
Pumpkins fed livestock as well as people; farmers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, raised fields of them for winter fodder for their animals.
The first American cookbook, published in 1796 by Amelia Simmons, offers two recipes for pumpkin pudding, one with a “paste,” or crust, and one without. The pumpkin was to be stewed first, then cooked with cream, eggs, sugar, mace, nutmeg, and ginger, and baked three quarters of an hour—not so different from Our Easiest Pumpkin Pie Ever.
If you want to cook with a fresh pumpkin, follow these easy instructions from Sunset, our sister publication on the West coast.
The best flavors of the season come together in these Mini Pumpkin-Molasses Cakes.
Impress your dinner guests with this Pumpkin Stuffed with Cranberry-Raising Bread Pudding, then send them home with a box of Pumpkin Fudge.
For a savory appetizer using fresh pumpkin, you will enjoy Beer-Battered Pumpkin with Dipping Sauce.
Delve into this list of more than 30 of our best pumpkin recipes
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