Fall Harvest: A Little About Winter Squash

September 20, 2013 at 8:49 AM | Posted in vegetables | 1 Comment
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An assortment of winter squashes.

An assortment of winter squashes.

 

Winter squash is a summer-growing annual fruit, representing several squash species within the genus Cucurbita. It differs from summer squash in that it is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage, when the seeds within have matured fully and the skin has hardened into a tough rind. At this stage, most varieties of this fruit can be stored for use during the winter. It is generally cooked before eating.

 

 

 

Because squash is a frost-tender vegetable, the seeds do not germinate in cold soil. Winter squash seeds germinate best when the soil temperature is 21 to 35 °C (70 to 95 °F), and the warmer end of the range is optimum. Seedlings are easily destroyed by frost, thus winter squash is best planted after the soil is thoroughly warmed and all sign of frost has passed.

 

 

 
Winter squash can be harvested whenever the fruits have turned a deep, solid color and the skin is hard. Most of the crop is harvested in September or October (Northern Hemisphere), before heavy frosts hit the planting area. When cutting squash from the vine, two inches of stem should remain attached if possible. Cuts and bruises should be avoided when handling. Fruits that are not fully mature, have been injured, have had their stems knocked off, or have been subjected to heavy frost will rot and should be used as soon as possible or be composted (watch for seedlings in the compost).

 

 

 

Butternut squash, a variety of winter squash

Butternut squash, a variety of winter squash

Winter squash is a low-calorie, good source of complex vegetable carbohydrates and dietary fiber.
It is an excellent source of vitamin A, a great source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese, and a good source of folate, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B1 (thiamin), copper, tryptophan, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid).
It is also a source of iron and beta carotene. Usually, the darker the skin is, the higher the beta carotene content.

 

 

Pumpkins and Pumpkin Carving

October 14, 2012 at 2:08 PM | Posted in cooking, Food | 2 Comments
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Well it’s that time of year for Ghouls and Gobblins and Trick or Treaters. It’s also time for Pumpkins and Pumpkin Carving, and maybe The Great Pumpkin! So here’s a little info about Pumpkins and I also left some web links on how to carve those Pumpkins. Happy Halloween Everyone!

Pumpkins
A pumpkin is a gourd-like squash of the genus Cucurbitaand the family Cucurbitaceae (which also includes gourds). It commonly

Several large pumpkins

refers to cultivars of any one of the species Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita mixta, Cucurbita maxima, and Cucurbita moschata, and is native to North America. They typically have a thick, orange or yellow shell, creased from the stem to the bottom, containing the seeds and pulp. Pumpkins are widely grown for commercial use, and are used both in food and recreation. Pumpkin pie, for instance, is a traditional part of Thanksgiving meals in the United States, and pumpkins are frequently carved as decorations around Halloween. A pumpkin that has a little face carved in it and hollowed out and decorated with candles inside is known as a jack o’lantern; these are often used at Halloween, for example, to decorate windows.
In Australian English, the name ‘pumpkin’ generally refers to the broader category called winter squash in North America.

The word pumpkin originates from the word pepon (πέπων), which is Greek for “large melon”. The French adapted this word to pompon, which the British changed to pumpionand later American colonists changed that to the word we use today, “pumpkin”. The origin of pumpkins is not definitively known, although they are thought to have originated in North America. The oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500 BC, were found in Mexico. Pumpkins are a

Pumpkin pie is a popular way of preparing pumpkin.

squash-like fruit that range in size from less than 1 pound (0.45 kilograms) to over 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms).
Since some squash share the same botanical classifications as pumpkins, the names are frequently used interchangeably. In general, pumpkin stems are more rigid, prickly, and angular (with an approximate five-degree angle) than squash stems, which are generally softer, more rounded, and more flared where joined to the fruit.
Pumpkins generally weigh 9–18 lbs (4–8 kg) with the largest (of the species C. maxima) capable of reaching a weight of over 75 lbs (34 kg). The pumpkin varies greatly in shape, ranging from oblate to oblong. The rind is smooth and usually lightly ribbed. Although pumpkins are usually orange or yellow, some fruits are dark green, pale green, orange-yellow, white, red and gray.
Pumpkins are monoecious, having both male and female flowers on the same plant. The female flower is distinguished by the small ovary at the base of the petals. These bright and colorful flowers have extremely short life spans and may only open for as short a time as one day. The color of pumpkins is derived from the orange pigments abundant in them. The main nutrients are lutein and both alpha and beta carotene, the latter of which generates vitamin A in the body.

Pumpkins are grown all around the world for a variety of reasons ranging from agricultural purposes (such as animal feed) to commercial and ornamental sales. Of the seven continents, only Antarctica is unable to produce pumpkins; the biggest international producers of pumpkins include the United States, Canada, Mexico, India, and China. The traditional American pumpkin is the Connecticut Field variety.

As one of the most popular crops in the United States, 1.5 billion pounds (680,000,000 kilograms) of pumpkins are produced each year. The top pumpkin-producing states include Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California.

According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, 95% of the U.S. crop intended for processing is grown in Illinois. Nestlé produces 85% of the processed pumpkin in the United States. In the fall of 2009, rain in Illinois devastated the Nestlé crop, resulting in a shortage affecting the entire country during the Thanksgiving holiday season.
Pumpkins are a warm-weather crop that is usually planted in early July. The specific conditions necessary for growing pumpkins require that soil temperatures three inches (7.6 cm) deep are at least 60 °F (15.5 °C) and soil that holds water well. Pumpkin crops may suffer if there is a lack of water or because of cold temperatures (in this case, below 65 °F (18.3 °C); frost can be detrimental), and sandy soil with poor water retention or poorly drained soils that become waterlogged after heavy rain. Pumpkins are, however, rather hardy, and even if many leaves and portions of the vine are removed or damaged, the plant can very quickly re-grow secondary vines to replace what was removed.
Pumpkins produce both a male and female flower; honeybees play a significant role in fertilization. Pumpkins have historically been pollinated by the native squash bee Peponapis pruinosa, but this bee has declined, probably due to pesticide sensitivity,[citation needed] and today most commercial plantings are pollinated by honeybees. One hive per acre (4,000 m² per hive) is recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If there are inadequate bees for pollination, gardeners often have to hand pollinate. Inadequately pollinated pumpkins usually start growing but abort before full development. An opportunistic fungus is also sometimes blamed for abortions.

The largest pumpkins are Cucurbita maxima. They were cultivated from the hubbard squash genotype, crossed with kabocha-pumpkin types by enthusiast farmers through intermittent effort since the early 19th century. As such germplasm is commercially provocative, a U.S. legal right was granted for the rounder phenotypes, levying them as constituting a variety, with the appellation Atlantic Giant. Eventually, this phenotype graduated back into the public domain, except now it had the name Atlantic Giant on its record (see USDA PVP # 8500204).
Weigh-off competitions for giant pumpkins are a popular festival activity. The world record held at 460 pounds (208.7 kilograms) until 1981, when Howard Dill (of Nova Scotia) broke the record with a pumpkin weighing 493.5 pounds (224 kilograms). Dill patented the seeds used to grow this giant pumpkin, deeming them Dill’s Atlantic Giant seeds, and drawing growers from around the world. Dill is credited for all of the giant pumpkins today, most of which are borne from crossing and re-crossing his patented seed with other varieties. By 1994, the Giant pumpkin crossed the 1,000-pound (453.6-kilogram) mark. The current world record holder is Chris Stevens’s 1,810-pound Atlantic Giant pumpkin, which in October 2010 surpassed Christy Harp’s previous 2009 record of 1,725 pounds.

Pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking. Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the

A can of pureed pumpkin

leaves, and even the flowers. In the United States and Canada, pumpkin is a popular Halloween and Thanksgiving staple. Homemade pumpkin purée can serve the same purpose.
When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, baked, steamed, or roasted. In its native North America, it is a very important, traditional part of the autumn harvest, eaten mashed and making its way into soups and purees. Often, it is made into pie, various kinds of which are a traditional staple of the Canadian and American Thanksgiving holidays. In Canada, Mexico, the United States, Europe and China, the seeds are often roasted and eaten as a snack.
Pumpkins that are still small and green may be eaten in the same way as squash or zucchini. In the Middle East, pumpkin is used for sweet dishes; a well-known sweet delicacy is called halawa yaqtin. In South Asian countries such as India, pumpkin is cooked with butter, sugar, and spices in a dish called kadu ka halwa. Pumpkin is used to make sambar in Udupi cuisine. In Guangxi province, China, the leaves of the pumpkin plant are consumed as a cooked vegetable or in soups. In Australia and New Zealand, pumpkin is often roasted in conjunction with other vegetables. In Japan, small pumpkins are served in savory dishes, including tempura. In Myanmar, pumpkins are used in both cooking and desserts (candied). The seeds are a popular sunflower seed substitute. In Thailand, small pumpkins are steamed with custard inside and served as a dessert. In Italy, it can be used with cheeses as a savory stuffing for ravioli. Also, pumpkin can be used to flavor both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages.
In the southwestern United States and Mexico, pumpkin and squash flowers are a popular and widely available food item. They may be used to garnish dishes, and they may be dredged in a batter then fried in oil. Pumpkin leaves are a popular vegetable in the Western and central regions of Kenya; they are called seveve, and are an ingredient of mukimo, respectively, whereas the pumpkin itself is usually boiled or steamed. The seeds are popular with children who roast them on a pan before eating them.

Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are small, flat, green, edible seeds. Most pumpkin seeds are covered by a white husk, although some pumpkin varieties produce seeds without them. Pumpkin seeds are a popular snack that can be found hulled or semi-hulled at most grocery stores. However, roasting pumpkin seeds (usually scooped out of jack-o-lanterns) is a popular Halloween treat. Per ounce serving, pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein, magnesium, copper and zinc.

Pumpkins are commonly carved into decorative lanterns called jack-o’-lanterns for the Halloween season in North America. Throughout Britain and Ireland, there is a long tradition of carving lanterns from vegetables, particularly the turnip, mangelwurzel, or swede. The turnip has traditionally been used in Ireland and Scotland at Halloween, but immigrants to North America used the native pumpkin, which are both readily available and much larger – making them easier to carve than turnips. Not until 1837, does jack-o’-lantern appear as a term for a carved vegetable lantern, and the carved pumpkin lantern association with Halloween is recorded in 1866.
In the United States, the carved pumpkin was first associated with the harvest season in general, long before it became an emblem of Halloween. In 1900, an article on Thanksgiving entertaining recommended a lit jack-o’-lantern as part of the festivities that encourage kids and families to join together to make their own jack-o-lanterns.

Pumpkin chucking is a competitive activity in which teams build various mechanical devices designed to throw a pumpkin as far as possible. Catapults, trebuchets, ballistas and air cannons are the most common mechanisms. Some pumpkin chuckers breed and grow special varieties of pumpkin under specialized conditions to improve the pumpkin’s chances of surviving a throw.

Pumpkin growers often compete to see whose pumpkins are the most massive. Festivals are often dedicated to the pumpkin and these competitions.

The Ohio towns of Barnesville and Circleville each hold a festival every year, the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival and the Circleville Pumpkin Show respectively. The town of Half Moon Bay, California, holds an annual Art and Pumpkin Festival, drawing over 250,000 visitors each year and including the World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-Off. Farmers from all over the US compete to determine who can grow the heaviest pumpkin. The winning pumpkin regularly tops the scale at more than 1500 pounds. Leonardo Urena, from Napa, California, grew the winner of the 2011 Weigh-Off with a 1,704-pound Atlantic Giant, setting a new California State record. The record for the world’s heaviest pumpkin was broken September 30, 2012, at the Topsfield Fair in Rhode Island. Ron Wallace of Greene, Rhode Island, entered a pumpkin weighing 2,009 pounds. A few days earlier on September 27, a pumpkin grown by Steve Geddes of Boscawen, New Hampshire, weighed in at 1,843.5 pounds at the Deerfield Fair in New Hampshire. That one held the world record for just five days. Prior to that, Guinness World Records had the world’s heaviest pumpkin set in 2010 by Chris Stevens, at a weight of 1,810 pounds, 8 ounces, at the Stillwater Harvest Fest in Stillwater, Minnesota. The town of Morton, Illinois, the self-declared pumpkin capital of the world, has held a Pumpkin Festival since 1966. The town, where Nestlé’s pumpkin packing plant is located (and where 90% of canned pumpkins eaten in the US are processed), held for several years a record for the number of carved and lit pumpkins in one place, before losing it to Boston, Massachusetts, in 2006. A large contributor of pumpkins to the Keene Pumpkin Fest in New Hampshire is local Keene State College, which hosts an event called Pumpkin Lobotomy on its main quadrangle. Usually held the day before the festival itself, Pumpkin Lobotomy has the air of a large party, with the school providing pumpkins and carving instruments alike (though some students prefer to use their own) and music provided by college radio station WKNH.
Ireland’s only Pumpkin Festival takes place each year in Virginia, County Cavan to find Ireland’s biggest pumpkins. This year the biggest pumpkin topped 1300 pounds. The event takes place over a holiday weekend, along with other entertainment and festive parades.
The city of Elk Grove, California, has held an annual Pumpkin Festival since 1995.

There seems to be a strong connection in folklore and popular culture between pumpkins and the supernatural. Famous examples

A pumpkin carved into a jack-o’-lantern for Halloween

include the following:
Folklore
*A commonplace motif of people being turned into pumpkins by witches
*The jack-o-lantern custom discussed above, which connects to Halloween lore about warding off demons.
Fiction
*In the folk tale Cinderella, the fairy godmother turns a pumpkin into a carriage, but at midnight it reverts back into a pumpkin.
*Linus’ belief in the Great Pumpkin in Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts.
*Juice from a pumpkin has magical effects in the short story “Pumpkin Juice” by R. L. Stine.
*The Harry Potter novels, in which pumpkin juice as a favorite drink of the students of Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is a recurring element
*The pumpkin hurled by the “Headless Horseman” in Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
*Jack Pumpkinhead, a character in the Oz books of L. Frank Baum, with a pumpkin for a head on a wooden body, brought to life in the second book
*In Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, the main character, Jack Skellington, is “the Pumpkin King.”
*Precious Ramotswe, the fictional detective from Botswana in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series of novels by Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith, often cooks and eats pumpkin.
*In a short fiction by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Feathertop from 1852, a witch turns a scarecrow with a “pumpkinhead” into a man.

 

 
http://www.pumpkingutter.com/

http://www.pumpkin-carving.com/

http://www.extremepumpkins.com/

http://homecooking.about.com/od/howtocookvegetables/a/pumpkincarving.htm

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