Have you noticed that there are certain foods you cook just because you are sure you'll love them, despite the fact you never eat more than three spoonfuls at a time? Here's to pumpkin soup!
I haven't done this in a while, the citrus scent really lifts the spirits for the holidays. A cheery pop of color for the short winter days.
Every year when the pumpkin season starts I'm drawn to the colorful stands of squashes and their delightful aroma. Butternut squash for instance can be really fragrant, usually that is a sign that it was picked at the peek of its ripeness. I can never resist the fruit of the fall and bring home a small pumpkin that requires hours to bake and additional time to process into soup.
It smells delicious when it simmers, so I rush to add the cinnamon, and the cloves, and spices to taste, pour in an altogether unhealthy amount of heavy cream and look forward to evaluating my culinary masterpiece. I taste the product, pleased.
It is of course too hot, but I still can't help but notice that the texture is not creamy, and mentally kick myself for not pureeing it in the blender. What? I did puree it in the blender, you say? Then that's the pumpkin's natural grittiness, it's not potato, you know!
I take another spoonful and it tastes a little bland, despite all the fat and spices that were added in order to distract me from the harsh reality that I am eating pumpkin. By now I am full, after all I already ingested roughly five hundred calories worth of heavy cream, skillfully disguised as vegetarian fare.
I set it aside, waiting for it to cool down, but it is a little heavy on the stomach when it's cold, because of the cream and the pepper, of course. I warm it up again and it's still bland and gritty, and decide that it might make a good lunch tomorrow, then place the soup bowl in the refrigerator and eat the foods around it until it outlives its good 'til date.
Most suburban dwellers don't have the space and the sun exposure required to grow pumpkins, the big round fruit has a sprawling growth habit and an unruly disposition that doesn't endear it to its tamer vegetable companions.
If you still want to grow pumpkins, here is how: pumpkins appreciate humus rich soils that hold water well but don't get soggy, a good amount of organic fertilizer, warmth and plenty of sunshine.
Sow the seeds in spring, after all danger of frost has passed, in hills of four or five seeds, just like you do for summer squash or cucumbers. Space the nests at least three feet in each direction, and four to six feet for the trailing varieties. After the seedlings emerge, thin them to two or three, without disturbing the roots. If you grow the trailing pumpkins on netting you will need to make hammocks to support the heavy fruit.
Pumpkins need a long hot summer to mature, they take about five months from seed to harvest. When the fruit begins to sound hollow and the stem turns hard and starts to crack it's harvest time.
If you want to store pumpkins they need to be 'cured', which is achieved by leaving them in a sunny and dry location for ten days or so until their skin hardens.
According to farmers who have grown every conceivable pumpkin, the best variety for pie is Cinderella, whose flat, deep orange fruit is shaped like a Turkish pillow. Its flavor is strong and sweet and it is a very old variety, cultivated since the time of the settlers. It is believed to have been served at the early Pilgrims' Thanksgiving table.