For Immediate Release
October 1, 2012
Plenty of Pennsylvania Pumpkins This Year
Last year much of Pennsylvania experienced extremely wet weather and flooding during late August and early September to the deteriment of the state’s pumpkin crop. Some farmer’s literally watched their pumpkins float down the river. This year is much different and growing conditions have been favorable in most areas. Growers are expecting a good crop of beautiful orange pumpkins as well as various types of winter squashes and now is the time to get them.
Growers began harvesting pumpkins and winter squash in September and will continue through October. While many Pennsylvania pumpkins are shipped to other states, many farm markets offer Keystone State consumers the opportunity to pick their own pumpkins right from the field.
As the Halloween and Thanksgiving seasons near, farmers are bringing wagon and truck loads of pumpkins and squash along with other fall ornamental specialties like gourds, squash, Indian corn, corn shocks, mums, ornamental cabbage and kale, and straw bales to the wholesale produce auctions, retail farm markets and garden centers for sale. Pumpkins and their cousins, winter squash, are one of Pennsylvania’s major vegetable crops. Pennsylvania growers annually plant about 325 acres of winter squash in addition to 6,900 acres of pumpkins which are worth about $18 million. Pennsylvania is the fifth largest pumpkin producing state in the nation. While the production is centered in the southeast corner of the state, acres of pumpkins and squash are grown all over the state.
Pumpkins come in all shapes and sizes. The most common is the jack-o’-lantern type that generally ranges from 10 to 30 pounds. Small pumpkins, usually about the size of a cantaloupe, are popular for indoor decorations as well as eating. Mini-pumpkins, such as the variety “Jack-be-Little”, are a relatively recent addition to the pumpkin industry. They are about the size of a large tomato and also are extremely attractive for indoor fall decoration. Giant pumpkins, which are actually squash weighing from 50 to 200 plus pounds, are great for special eye-catching displays.
Choosing a pumpkin is mostly a matter of taste as to the shape and size. In general, pumpkins should have a rich orange color indicating full maturity although the shade varies between varieties. For long-term fall displays, it is important to choose a pumpkin which is free of any unhealed skin punctures or soft areas. The stem should be firm also. While pumpkins can withstand frosts in outdoor displays, they will last longer if they are protected from the frost.
For jack-o’-lanterns, it is not as important to find a pumpkin that has no skin punctures since carving the pumpkin subjects the flesh to more decay-causing organisms than do small punctures. Many farm markets offer pumpkins that have colorful faces painted on the pumpkin. These will usually keep longer than a carved jack-o’-lantern.
While large jack-o’-lantern-type pumpkins can be cooked for pies or other recipes, their flesh is stringy and the eating quality is poor compared to the smaller pie-type pumpkins, often called sugar pumpkins because of their sweetness. Pumpkins are close relatives to winter squash and most commercially prepared “pumpkin” is actually winter squash. Neck pumpkins (which are really squash), butternut and Hubbard squashes all make tasty “pumpkin” dishes, such as pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread.
Pumpkin or squash can be cooked a number of different ways. After splitting the fruit and removing the seeds and attached strings, the flesh can be cut out of the rind and cubed. The cubed flesh can then be boiled, steamed or microwaved until tender, drained and then mashed. For the smaller squash varieties, the fruit can be cut in half. After scooping out the seeds, the halves should be placed cut-side up in a shallow pan with a small amount of water or cut-side down on a baking sheet, covered with foil and baked in a hot oven until the flesh is tender. The halves can also be partially covered and cooked in a microwave oven until tender. The cooked flesh can then be scooped out and mashed for use in recipes. Or for a quick vegetable side dish, put a little butter and brown sugar in the cup of an acorn or small butternut squash cut in half, bake until soft and serve as is.
Pumpkin and squash are both good sources of vitamin A although squash generally have more than pumpkin. They also have good amounts of fiber and help fulfill the weekly recommendation 4 to 6 cups of red or orange vegetables for adults (United States Department of Agriculture atwww.choosemyplate.gov).
The following recipes for pumpkin and winter squash were finalist recipes in the 2012 “Simply Delicious, Simply Nutritious” Vegetable Recipe Contest and offer some delicious choices for including pumpkin and squash in your menus.
“Snappy” Pumpkin Custard Cups
2 large eggs
1 heaping tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
ginger snap cookies – crushed
Cool Whip whipped topping
Beat eggs well and add sugar and flour and mix well. Add pumpkin, milk and cinnamon. Pour into individual-sized ramekins, place on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and then lower oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake another 10 minutes until set. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Top with finely crumbled ginger snap cookies and a dollop of whipped topping. Enjoy!
First Place – Pumpkin and Winter Squash category
Submitted by Teresa DeVono, Red Lion
Squash, Roasted Peppers and Potatoes Chunky Mash
1 pound 2-inch cubed butternut squash (usually a little less than 2 pounds whole squash)
6 ounces roasted peppers, diced
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 onion diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon ginger minced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt substitute or salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper or to taste
2 pounds golden potatoes, peeled, 2-inch cubed
fresh greens to plate
Prepare the fresh squash by piercing the skin and placing in a microwave oven for about 3 minutes. After the squash cools, cut in half and scoop out seeds. Cut into quarters and peel with a potato peeler. Then cut into 2-inch cubes. Dice the roasted peppers, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar, and let set while preparing other ingredients. Put the vegetable stock, almond milk, onion, garlic, ginger, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, salt substitute, and black pepper in an open pressure cooker. Slowly bring to boil, and then simmer these ingredients for 5 minutes. Add peeled and cubed potatoes and cubed squash to pressure cooker along with roasted peppers, stir, close the lid and pressure cook on high for about 4 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before quick releasing pressure. When pressure cooking is complete, take out cinnamon stick and bay leaf then drain and reserve liquid. Mash with a fork or masher to desired consistency, adding reserve liquid back as needed. Serve chunky mash hot over bite size fresh greens.
Submitted by B.J. Reed, Chambersburg
Stove Top Butternut Casserole
Serves 4 to 6
4 cups butternut squash peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes
1 medium apple peeled, cored and cut into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 cup dark brown sugar firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)
In a large skillet add the 4 cups of butternut cubes. Add the apples cut into cubes. Sprinkle the salt and raisins over the butternut squash and apples. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the squash cubes are tender. Drain off the excess liquid. Stir in the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Remove to a serving dish and sprinkle the top with the coconut.
Submitted by Pearl Ward, Hulmeville
1 small butternut squash (2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil divided (enough to toss squash, reserving some to drizzle for presentation)
3/4 cup rinsed and drained canned garbanzo beans
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Garnishes: Reserved toasted sesame oil for drizzling, parsley, whole garbanzo beans and toasted black and white sesame seeds.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel squash. Cut squash in half, remove seeds and cut squash into 2-inch chunks, or you can purchase the squash peeled and chopped. Keeping the chunks approximately the same size assures even roasting. Toss squash with toasted sesame oil and place on a baking sheet. Roast uncovered until squash has browned a little and is very tender (about an hour). Let cool. You should have about 3 cups cooked squash. While squash is roasting, heat the coriander, salt, cinnamon and cayenne briefly in a small, dry pan until fragrant. Allow the spices to cool. In a food processor, process the garbanzo beans until coarsely chopped. Add the cooled, roasted squash, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, coriander, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne pepper, and process until smooth. Serve hummus drizzled lightly with sesame oil, and garnished with parsley, whole garbanzo beans and toasted black and white sesame seeds. Use torn pita for scooping the dip.
Submitted by Elysa Boffo, Camp Hill
Quick Buying Tips for Pennsylvania Pumpkins
The Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program offers these tips when buying pumpkins:
- Select pumpkins that have a rich orange color with no green.
- Look for a good solid stem.
- For long-term displays, avoid pumpkins with unhealed cuts or bruises.