Thursday, October 27, 2011

pumpkin 101

Pumpkins . . . the ultimate symbol of fall. Their pleasing shapes and warm colors remind us of the smoky sweet glow of jack-o’-lanterns at Halloween and the taste of pumpkin pie by Thanksgiving. But when it comes to culinary charisma or decorative charm, not all pumpkins are created equal.   
Pumpkin 101 was inspired by a recent visit with my best friend, Alex. She stopped by over the weekend with cake pops and cupcakes from Sweet & Saucy (YUM!), and we spent a considerable amount of time planning the Fall decor and menu for her upcoming housewarming gathering. While discussing ideas for Fall-inspired vignettes, I referred to various pumpkins that I plan to use in the decor . . . and she commented that she didn't realize they all have different, unique names, "Aren't they all the same?" she asked.

Now I don't claim to know a whole lot about pumpkins, but I know a fair amount about the most popular ones. So I thought it would be fun to share a little of what I know with you . . .  (Alex, please read carefully, as there will be a short quiz for you in a follow-up email.)
I'll start with the traditional orange pumpkin. We're all familiar with this one . . . It's the one that we carve into jack-0'-lanterns.

Cinderella and Fairy-tale Pumpkins . . .  two of my favorites! They are similar in their flattened, exaggerated furrows and curves, but differ in their color. The Cinderella pumpkin is a muted orange, and the Fairy-tale is a beautiful white.  The source of their nickname it that they resemble the pumpkin that Cinderella's fairy godmother transformed into a carriage. The fairy-tale pumpkin is recorded as having been the variety cultivated by the Pilgrims and served at the second Thanksgiving dinner. There is something magical about them. Cinderellas make a delightful decorative accent for the fall season, but additionally their flavor is good for any pie or winter squash recipe.  


Jack-be-Littles . . . These little guys are the perfect toddler's pumpkin. They are tiny and fit in the palm of your hand. Jack-be-Littles can be orange, white, striped, and multi-colored. When kept out of the direct sun they will last for months. They are pefect displayed on a desk or in a shaded windowsill. They are even edible and have a nice flavor.

The smaller sugar pumpkins, or pie pumpkins, will give you more meat for cooking purposes and often a better flavor and texture. Sugar pumpkins make an especially delicious pumpkin soup. Buy an extra one, clean out the cavity, and use it as a striking tureen.

The unique pumpkins featured below have long, unique names; and since you'll find them in specialty stores and farmer's markets under a sign that reads Heirloom Pumpkins . . .  we'll just call them that. They come in vibrant and muted colors. They also come in a variety of smooth and rough textures; and some are even odd shaped.  Heirloom pumpkins are becoming quite  popular in home design and decor. They are stunning when showcased in clusters and stacked. My interest in them is growing as well. I'm planning to collect several and display them on top of my dining room armoire, along with tall, impressive bundles of wheat for Thanksgiving. 


. . . And this concludes my quick lesson. 

Pleasingly round, with long furrows and unyielding stems, pumpkins have an understated grandeur that's almost impossible to ignore — especially when you get to know them better

My hope is that you'll notice pumpkins you hadn't noticed before, and feel inspired to purchase a new variety to add to your front porch, walkway, and home decor; and if you do, 

Send me photos! I would love to see them!

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