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Pumpkin, Gourds and Winter Squash: More than Fall Decorations
Pumpkin, Gourds and More
As fall steals into the hues of nature—trees brazen with gold, orange, yellow and red, vegetables offer up their fall selection—pumpkin, gourds and winter squash. They come in different shapes and sizes, some fancy with variegated colors, others in graceful lines of slender lean shapes. We’re most familiar with pumpkin, making its presence on porches as Jack-O-Lantern or as a staple at Thanksgiving—the humble pumpkin pie. However, you may find other relatives of the pumpkin—all kinds of gourds and winter squash basking in the grocery light. They are all members of the cucurbitaceae family—a broad vine family that include the cucumbers and melons.
Since it’s not every day that you find these showy gourds and squash, it behooves us well to use them while we can. Apart from their good looks (many are showcased as ornaments), there are many more ways to use them.
Pumpkins make natural lanterns. Carving knives recommended.
You can’t go wrong with this group of fall vegetables—after all, they’re the oldest cultivated plants, dating back to the Egyptian times. Staples like pumpkin soup (delightful on cold days), cubes of buttersquash in vegetable broth, puree pumpkin used in pies, cakes or bread are true and tried. However, there are countless ways to enjoy gourds and squash and here are some more ways you can enjoy your winter fare:
Stuffed Them and Baked Them
Since gourds and winter squash are blessed with cavernous interior—just scoop out the seeds—they make excellent vessels for all kinds of good stuff. Good stuff like beans, meats, grains, nuts, dried fruits and vegetables. Make your favorite concoction and stuff it in—bake and enjoy.
Too much work? You can still tap into the yummy goodness of gourds/squash by simply sprinkling spices and seasoning (once you seeded them) and bake. Flavorings that pair well include brown sugar, maple syrup, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, mace, ginger and curry. Bake at 375 degree Fahrenheit for 45 minutes to an hour.
Make Salad Medley
When I was walking through Harrods Food Hall, London, I was attacked by food inspirations. One left an indelible scar on my memory: Hunks of roasted squash with equally chunky beets: the play of orange and luscious red held me captive.
Take one medium size Kabocha. Split it into halves. Scoop insides out.
- One cup coconut milk
- 5 eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar or coconut sugar
- 1 tsp of vanilla essence or pandan essence
Mix all the above thoroughly. Pour into cavities of Kabocha and bake at 375 degree Fahrenheit for 45 mins to an hour.
Ahh…we can all use a dessert or two, especially when the temperature dips and all you want to do is curl up with a good dessert and a steaming cuppa. Let the world rush on…you couldn’t care less.
Here’s one that I love and it’s totally easy to make: Kabocha squash with coconut custard.
See recipe in blue capsule.
Most gourds have a hard exterior and they come in handy if you’re up to some creative challenge:
Jack-O-Lanterns are much appreciated but they’re also predictable. How about wowing trick-or-treaters with your fancy gourd garlands? String them into pretty garlands. Intertwine the strand with some festive lights if you care. Sit back and enjoy. Your neighbors will do too.
Sure, you can let candles from Pier I Imports do the work but imagine making candle holders out of fancy gourds/squash to add charm to your dining table? Or to create the magic of fall when friends come over? Or, make luminaries out of them—the yellow/orange interior exudes spooktacular appeal. Yes, just imagine….
As a kid, I used to watch old Chinese movies where they almost always have some thirsty wayfaring travelers drinking from gourd bottles—their version of water bottles. That was before people realized that these natural vessels of gourd bottles are actually eco-friendly and very functional. Now, with the green rage, it can be really cool and chic to actually own one. And the good news, you can actually make one:
Here’s how: How to Make Gourd Bottles
Love to have birds in your backyards? Why not tempt them/lure them with your fancy-looking gourd feeder? If I were a bird, I’ll ditch any even remotely man-made ones just so I could hang out at yours.
Moving on…we know that beauty experts are not going to let these vegetables escape their craft too. After all, pumpkins and squash are rich in nutrients (beta-carotene and zinc) and cell-regenerating vitamin A and C. Use it as a moisturizer, facial scrub or mask, pumpkin is quite the youth rejuvenator.
Pumpkin Facial Mask:
- 2 tbsp of pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp of honey
- 2 tbsp of milk or yogurt
Mix well and apply to face. Leave for 10 minutes and rinse off with warm water.
There are many more uses, of course. But let’s call it a day but before we end, don’t throw out the gut of the gourds/squash. The seeds can be used too. Just clean out the slime and stingy part that come with the seeds. Cool running water will do the trick.
Roast them at 325 degree Fahrenheit for 25 minutes. They make good healthy snacks.
Grind roasted pumpkin seeds until fine. Can be added to facial scrub to exfoliate skin.
Related read: Pumpkin: Super Fall Vegetable