When in season, it’s pumpkin everything. Pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie… and that warm, fuzzy place they fill since childhood. From planting to carving and eating — they spell fall and color and fun.
I’ve finally found myself in a suitable climate (USDA Hardiness Zone 10a). It’s a bit wild really. Especially because, until recently, I was accustomed to gardening in a region with long winters and cold summer nights (technically Zone 6b but performing more like 5a) where growing pumpkins without a greenhouse was impossible. But in the San Francisco Bay Area I can not only grow pumpkins but take my time enjoying them.
Initially it’s the spectacle of tending peach-fuzz sprouts that turn into rambling vines. Half the fun is watching where they decide to venture and then what might grow from their showy flowers. Once enough of them are bearing fruit the eating begins.
Pumpkin flowers are just as fab on the plate as in the garden. Try them on pizza, in calzones and salads or stuffed and fried. They make simples dishes like quesadillas amazing. Their warm, earthy flavor pairs perfectly cumin and hot peppers.
Flowers can be gathered throughout the growing season and past your pumpkin harvest into late fall depending on your climate. The trick is to not let them sit between picking and eating. They’re best when prepared right away.
Next are the pumpkins. With Halloween carving behind us we can enjoy our favorite pumpkin something. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice-cream, pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin soup times 10…. Once your favorites are played out try these easy strategies to make the most of your pumpkin harvest or halloween left-overs:
1. Roast the seeds, saving a handful for planting next summer’s garden. You can play it safe and roast them with a bit of salt and olive oil on low to medium heat (250 – 350 degrees) until they’re golden brown and just crispy or have some fun.
Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
- 2 – 3 cups pumpkin seeds with the goop still on them (they’re not nearly as good when washed and roasted).
- Olive oil
- 1 Tbsp ground sea salt
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp chili powder or cayenne pepper
- Worcestershire sauce (optional)
What to do:
- Mix the seeds, oil and spices in a bowl until the seeds are coated. Bake them uncovered at 250 degrees for about 30 to 45 minutes. (I go back and forth from higher heat and less time and lower heat for more time. The trick is to roast them until crispy but not dry through the center.)
- Let them cool about 2 hours.
- Eat or Store.
2. Save seeds for next year’s crop. Choose seeds from a pumpkin(s) or other heirloom variety you’d like to repeat. Spread them out on a dish or paper plate and place them in a cool, shady location until dry. Once dry store in an air-tight container in a cool location. Your refrigerator is perfect but if it’s as stuffed as mine substitute with corner closet or basement shelf.
3. Compost the vines. It’s best to cut them into manageable lengths before adding to your pile, making it easier to turn as you go.