Savour food – It’s primetime for pumpkins and my @AlbertatNoon column for September

It's pumpkin time in Alberta photo - Karen Anderson
It’s pumpkin time in Alberta
photo – Karen Anderson

Pumpkins mean fun. They are fun to choose, fun to carve and really fun to eat in a myriad of ways. You might think I’m jumping the gun talking about pumpkins in September but we experience frosts early in Alberta and if you wait until October – when pumpkins truly are on people’s minds – you will miss out on the opportunity to visit a pumpkin patch in its prime.

If your family likes picking a pumpkin out of a big bin at the grocery store, just imagine how much fun they would have in an honest-to-goodness pumpkin patch on one of our beautiful Alberta farms. This post will talk about where to find pumpkin patches in Alberta, how to prepare pumpkins for eating and some great pumpkin recipes sure to enhance your enjoyment of our quickly approaching fall.

It may sound like an elusive and mythical thing, like Charlie Brown and Linus waiting for The Great Pumpkin, but Alberta is actually home to many great pumpkin patches and has a world-class giant pumpkin contest in Smoky Lake the first weekend in October each year.

Here are a list of pumpkin patches in their prime right now.

Here’s the link which describes all the pumpkin patch activities at Innisfail Grower’s The Jungle Farm from now until Halloween.

Here is a link to very detailed instructions on how to choose a pie pumpkin or sugar pumpkin and how to prepare your pumpkin for your eating enjoyment.

My enjoyment of pumpkin always starts with the seeds. I like to add them to salads and to pasta dishes. They are called pepitas to the Mexicans and I love to grind them and make a rich mole sauce for fresh fish. Pumpkin seeds can be a bit pricy to buy at the store but they are easy to save and toast on a baking sheet at 350F until golden and crisp. Roast them less than 20 minutes for optimal nutrition. They are high in Vitamin E, trace minerals, iron and have twelve grams of protein and 284 calories per cup.

The great pumpkin awaits you in a nearby Alberta pumpkin patch photo - Karen Anderson
The great pumpkin awaits you in a nearby Alberta pumpkin patch
photo – Karen Anderson

Here you will find a sweet treat for your pumpkin puree and an exotic and savoury pumpkin salad to enjoy alone or as an accompaniment to a main meal. I think it would taste great with lamb and an apricot mint sauce or with fish coated with peaches and almonds.

Karen’s Primetime for Pumpkin Muffins
Notes to the Cook
Mini versions of these muffins make excellent snacks for school lunch boxes.
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. organic cane sugar
4 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. mace
¼ t. cloves
1 c. skim milk
1 c. canned pumpkin or fresh Alberta pumpkin (see directions for making pie filling from scratch on Karen’s blog link above)
½ c. butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
½ c. dried cranberries
½ c. toasted pumpkin seeds
½ c. brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices into a large bowl and make a well in the center of these dry ingredients.
Mix the milk, pumpkin, melted butter, beaten eggs, cranberries and pumpkin seeds in another bowl and once uniformly blended pour them into the well you created in the dry ingredients.
Stir the wet and dry ingredients to combine them using as few strokes as possible (overworking causes tough muffins).
Fill muffin papers or tins two-thirds full and sprinkle the tops with brown sugar.
Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack.
Makes 2 dozen large or 24 small muffins.

Warm Pumpkin And Chickpea Salad with Tahini
From Samuel and Samantha Clark’s Casa Moro – The second cookbook (Ebury Press, 2013)
1 kg pumpkin (or squash) peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ t. ground allspice
2 T. olive oil
1 can cooked chickpeas, drained
½ small red onion, finely chopped
4 T. cilantro, roughly chopped
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Tahini sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed to a paste with salt
3-½ T lemon juice
3 T Tahini paste
2 T water, to taste
2 T. olive oil
Preheat oven to 425F
Toss the pumpkin with the garlic, allspice, olive oil and some salt and pepper.
Place on a tray in the oven for about 15 – 25 minutes or until soft and then remove and cool.
While the pumpkin is cooking, make the tahini sauce.
Mix the crushed garlic with the lemon juice and add the tahini.
Add the water and olive oil alternatively in small bits checking for a nice consistency and a balance between the nuttiness of the tahini and the tartness of the lemon.
Assemble the salad but placing the pumpkin, chickpeas, onion and cilantro in a bowl and pouring the tahini sauce over it. Toss and season with salt and pepper.

Here’s a sweet reward for your blog reading efforts. From 1966, here’s the ever-delightful Charlie Brown and The Great Pumpkin by the late great Charles Schwarz.

Its the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown 1966 DVDRip from Kyron Taylor on Vimeo.

How can you not love pumpkins? They help us savour this time of year and they are a delicious way to savour our glorious Alberta harvest season.


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