Harvest of the Month – October – Pumpkin Mac N’ Cheese
Harvest of the Month: October – Pumpkin
By Melissa Vigdor
What is the Pumpkin?
October is upon us and it is finally beginning to feel like fall in Georgia. As the leaves start to change and Halloween approaches, pumpkins often come to mind. Whether it’s pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread or pumpkin beer, it’s clear that pumpkin is synonymous with the season. But what is a pumpkin anyway?
Pumpkins are large, orange, round vegetables that grow on a vine. They can range in size from just a under a pound to over 1,000 pounds! They are part of the Curcubitaceae family just like melons and cucumbers. In fact, the name pumpkin came from the Greek word pepon, which means “large melon”. These squash, originally found in North America, were a staple in the Native American diet. When the pilgrims arrived and settled, it became an essential part of their diet as well. Today, we use pumpkins for food, as well as for fun.
The high fiber content and low calories make pumpkin the perfect choice for inclusion in your recipes. Pumpkins are an excellent source of beta-carotene, vitamin C and potassium. The key nutrients in pumpkin can be an important part of a weight loss or cholesterol control diet. And it is not just the pumpkin flesh that is good for our health! The seeds are high in fiber, healthy fats and minerals like iron and zinc.
How to Grow Pumpkins in Your Garden
Pumpkins need warm, fertile soil and lots of sun to thrive. If you want to grow some on your own next year, plant four or five seeds 3 feet apart in your garden during the month of July. Keep in mind that pumpkins grow on vines that tend to spread out on the ground. It is best to plant your pumpkins on the edge of your garden and continue to direct the vines there. You can use a trellis for your growing vines if you also use heavy-duty slings to support the pumpkins.
Pumpkins need to be harvested before the first frost. You will know your pumpkins are ready to pick when its skin is hard and orange colored. You may want to wear gloves when freeing your pumpkins from the vine, because the vines are often prickly. To harvest your pumpkins, cut the stem with a sharp knife. Be sure to leave at least one inch of stem on each pumpkin. If the stem breaks off, the pumpkin will not store well.
Selecting and Storing Pumpkins
When selecting pumpkins in the grocery store, it is best to choose one that feels heavy with a dry, thick stem. Pumpkins with wrinkles, cuts and bruises on their skin should be avoided.
Uncut pumpkins will keep for several weeks at room temperature. However, cut pumpkins must be stored in the refrigerator and will only last for a few days.
Now that you know a little more about pumpkins, here is a recipe to try:
Thank you to Mike and Margherita from the Iron You for their wonderful recipe…
Ingredients (serves 5)
• ½ lb / 225 gr whole wheat macaroni (elbows, rotini, or any other short shape)
• 2 cups / 15.5 oz / 350 gr pumpkin puree
• 2 tablespoons milk
• 1 pat butter
• ½ cup / 40 gr grated dubliner or other sharp cheese
• ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
• Pinch of nutmeg (optional)
• 2 tablespoons whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
• Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C), place a rack in the middle. Lightly grease a 8×8-inch baking dish and set aside.
• In a saucepan over very low heat, melt the cheese with the butter and milk, stirring constantly. Add pumpkin puree and stir until you reach the consistency of a smooth orange/yellowish creamy sauce.
• Cook pasta al dente according to package instructions, drain it, pour into the pumpkin cheese sauce and mix well.
• Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish, sprinkle with panko breadcrumbs and maybe some freshly ground pepper.
• Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and pasta is bubbly. If the tops are browning too quickly, cover the pans with foil.
• Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.