Everything’s Coming Up Pumpkins

pumpkin wholeWhat is it about that first hint of autumn in the air that stirs the craving for pumpkin-inspired foods? I am not immune to this phenomenon. I find myself craving pumpkin pie right around early September, even though I rarely have pumpkin pie any time other than at Thanksgiving dinner. In the last 4 years, even that annual indulgence has been difficult, given my allergies to wheat, dairy, and eggs, though this year I may bravely attempt a vegan pumpkin pie.

Pumpkins are a member of the cucurbit (gourd) family and, while most of us may think of these as vegetables, they are actually a fruit. If you’re keen to learn more, you’ll find some really interesting information on the website linked here.

The pumpkin craze seems to have escalated in the last few years. I mean, am I the only one with friends on Facebook actually counting down the days until Pumpkin Spice Lattes become available? In fact, this seasonal beverage (I don’t need to name the purveyor, do I?) has such a devoted following that copycat recipes are easy to find—like this one from Mama Natural, this one from Civilized Caveman, or this one from the Food Network. Really—the recipes are so abundant that I was stunned when my quick Google search for “pumpkin spice latte recipe” returned “about 694,000 results”…WHAT? But I digress…

I have to admit, while I enthusiastically roast and eat many kinds of winter squash, I have never made my own pumpkin puree. I usually rely on organic canned pumpkin for baking because, well, it is more convenient (please, don’t judge me!)  Maybe this is the year to give it a try, now that the Monadnock Food Co-op has sugar pie pumpkins from Alyson’s Orchard in stock and I found this seemingly foolproof recipe for making my own puree.  Either way, pumpkin puree is central to many autumn recipes– I daresay it is the quintessential flavor of autumn.  And here we are, in autumn.

I don’t know about you, but all this talk of pumpkin is making me hungry, so I thought I’d share some recipes that I found while researching this article. First, could there be a better way to celebrate autumn than with a decadent pumpkin cheesecake? I sorely miss cream cheese, so I went looking for a vegan pumpkin cheesecake, which I did find but have not yet tried. I’ll keep you posted.

While baking seems to be the predominant means for getting pumpkin into our diet, I found some savory recipes that I will definitely be trying: like this Pumpkin Beef Autumn Stew (with the added bonus of being a slow cooker meal), and this Pumpkin Vegetable Curry Stew. I make some similar dishes with butternut squash (like the heavenly Bison Butternut Cocoa Chili from Diane Sanfilippo’s Practical Paleo Cookbook), but I honestly never considered using pumpkin.

If all of this is just too much to consider, just stick to roasting those pumpkin seeds. And maybe pull out the winter woolens, because we’ll need ‘em soon!