Sep 27, 2020

LET’S DISH! Let’s Talk About Pumpkins

By MaryAnn Miano

Happy Halloween! If you have visions of orange pumpkins dancing in your head, it’s a good bet you associate Halloween with this particular squash. Pumpkins and squash have long been revered for their unusual and eye-catching appearance. They are characterized by a rounded shape and yellow to orange color. Probably the best known pumpkin is the C.Pepo, which can weigh as much as 100 lbs. and is popular for carving at Halloween. We know this pumpkin as the famous jack-o-lantern.

Our present-day jack-o-lantern originated from Irish folklore. Good ole jack really began as a turnip, but when the Irish came to America due to the potato famine, they found the turnip not as readily available and substituted the pumpkin as their jack-o-lantern. In the Irish tale, Jack crossed the devil and could not make it into heaven or hell. The devil tossed Jack an ember from the flames of hell that would never burn out, and Jack carved a turnip to keep the ash inside, using it as a light to endlessly wander the earth.

Pumpkins have a long history going back many centuries. It is estimated to date as far back as 7,000 BC, possibly with its beginnings in Mexico and Central America. Pumpkin got its name from the Greek “pepon,” which means large melon. The pumpkin is a fruit growing on vines on the ground. After about 90 to 120 days, pumpkins grow to their full size. Ripe pumpkins are harvested in October.

We tend to ignore the pumpkin’s wonderful versatility and flavorful nutritional value, thinking in terms of its usefulness as a Halloween decoration only. However, pumpkin is for more than carving. The uses for pumpkin span into soups, pies, muffins, breads, and even risotto and pasta!

Not only are pumpkins interesting to look at, easy to grow and fun to tell stories about, but they are healthy, too. Pumpkin flesh has no cholesterol, is low in fat and sodium and rich in vitamins, in particular beta carotene and vitamin A. The seeds are wonderful, too, when removed and toasted in the oven.

The pumpkin is often underrated as a useful ingredient. It will surprise you in its diversity as a main course or dessert. Keep your oven hot and give it a try with a pumpkin dish or baked good for fall. Surprise your family this Halloween by serving this fast and easy pumpkin quick bread!

 

FALL PUMPKIN BREAD

 

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¾ cup packed light brown sugar

¾ cup sugar

½ cup shortening

2 large eggs

1 16-ounce can solid pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

1 cup pitted prunes, chopped

1 cup walnuts, chopped

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.
  2. In medium bowl, with spoon, mix first six ingredients.
  3. In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat brown sugar, sugar, shortening, eggs, and pumpkin until blended; with spoon, stir in flour mixture just until flour is moistened. Stir in prunes and ½ cup walnuts. Spoon batter evenly into pan. Top with remaining nuts.
  4. Bake for 75 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. If top of loaf browns too quickly, loosely cover with foil during last 30 minutes of baking time. Cool bread in pan on wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan; finish cooling on rack. Makes one loaf or 12 servings.