once humble pumpkin, decoratively nestled among stalks of corn or as centerpiece
with gourds and Indian corn, now has festivals dedicated to its glories, with
everything from soups to cakes to breads and new versions of the Thanksgiving
standard: pumpkin pie.
Although we associate the pumpkin mostly
with the Halloween jack o'lantern, it was a Johnny-come-lately to that holiday,
the origins of which lie at least 2000 years back in the Celtic traditions of
the British Isles. Adapted by the Roman conquerors, modified by the Christians
and brought to North America mainly by Irish immigrants, Halloween became uniquely
American with the addition of the pumpkin, another of the now indispensable contributions
of Native American agriculture. Without the pumpkin, we might still be making
Jack O'Lanterns with turnips, or more precisely, rutabagas, because the Irish
had no pumpkins yet; this would not happen until 16th century Spanish and Portuguese
conquerors began their dispersal around the world centuries later.
Celts, like many ancient peoples of northern countries, sought ways to cope with
the approaching winter. People felt at the mercy of both the elements and the
powers of unknown forces. The antecedents of Halloween were more about keeping
evil spirits and ghosts of the dead at bay on the eve of winter's long, cold embrace.
Food left on doorsteps and window sills was the customary way to appease the spirits.
There were also times of great poverty and people went door to door begging food
presaging the modern custom of trick-or-treating.
autumn festivities and commercialization of Halloween has left those dark memories
behind leaving jack o'lanterns and apple bobbing as vestigial reminders of those
dark days. Not surprising that apples remain part of the celebration mix as the
Roman conquerors of the British Isles followed their commemoration of the dead
in late October with celebrations to honor Pomona, their goddess of fruit and
trees - likely the origin of bobbing for apples.
apple festivals abound in autumn. And food is at the heart of Halloween as of
all celebrations, in fact, many ancient holidays were called "feasts."
The Latin roots are the same for feast and festival. These celebrations on the
farms where the pumpkins and apples are grown enable children and families to
connect to both the people who raise their food and the land itself.
Pumpkins with Apples
Sharing autumn harvest time, pumpkins
and apples also pair nicely in many recipes, the mellow sweetness of the pumpkin
enhanced by the tart-sweetness of the apples. Pumpkins adapt to many recipes and
can be substituted for carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash. As always I recommend
using whole, unprocessed ingredients including cold pressed (rather than chemically
extracted) oils such as safflower, sunflower, whole grain flours; reduced amounts
of sweeteners, fats and salt. Enjoy these wholesome, delicious dishes and desserts
while the fruits of the harvest are in season.
The apple adds both sweetness and tartness to this simple,
but elegant pumpkin dish. Serve as a side dish to a main course or as a main dish
with salad and hot bread.
3 cups freshly baked pumpkin, mashed
and partially cooled
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup applesauce
2 egg whites
To the pumpkin
add the butter, salt, egg yolks and applesauce and beat until fluffily. Whip until
stiff 2 egg whites. Fold gently into the pumpkin mixture. Pour into a greased
7-inch soufflé dish and bake in a pre-heated 350° oven about 40 minutes.
Pumpkin-Apple Bread or Muffins
and redolent of pumpkin, vanilla and spice, this bread, although not very sweet
satisfies like a cake, warm or cold. Try fresh goat's cheese spread on a warm
1 cup grated raw pumpkin
1/2 cup grated apple
to 1/2 cup oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup honey, molasses or maple syrup
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 cups whole grain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt or less (optional)
1.2 cup chopped nuts or sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raisins or chopped
Beat together the oil and honey. Add eggs, vanilla,
pumpkin and apple. Mix well. Sift dry ingredients together. Add pumpkin mixture
to dry ingredients along with nuts and dried fruit.
Stir until just moistened.
Bake in a well-greased loaf pan or 8-inch by 8-inch cake pan 45 to 60 minutes
until a toothpick inserted in the middle come out clean. Cool in pan a few minutes
then turn out onto wire cooling rack. Refrigerate if storing more than a day.
I adapted this recipe from the Common
Ground Dessert Cookbook (Ten-Speed Press, 1983). All the desserts are
made from scratch with whole grains and natural sweeteners. It's ok to use canned
pumpkin for this, but I like the flavor of freshly cooked pumpkin. I made five
of these for our local pumpkin festival. It was a sell-out. Despite the raves,
it's rich and something to reserve for a special occasion.
graham cracker crust in a 10-inch spring form pan
fresh cooked pumpkin pulp
1-1/4 pounds Neufchatel (reduced fat) cream cheese
1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups real maple syrup
1 teaspoon molasses
teaspoons arrowroot powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon powdered
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
pinch each of ground cloves and allspice
cream cheese until smooth. Puree the pumpkin pulp with the maple syrup, and the
remaining ingredients. Add to the cream cheese and whip until smooth and creamy.
Pour the filling into the crust and bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes.
Do not overcook. Cake is done even if very center is not completely set and will
continue to cook after taken from the oven. Allow the cheesecake to cool and set
at least two hours. Best if refrigerated overnight. Serves 10 to 12 sinful eaters.
This recipe is adapted
Foods for the Whole Family, Roberta Bishop Johnson, editor, published
by La Leche League International, 1981. It has great recipes for simple family
cooking and a center section especially for kids.
1/2 c oil
c molasses or honey
1 c plus 2T whole grain flour
1.t baking powder
t baking soda
1.c cooked mashed pumpkin
3/4 t cinnamon
1 T grated fresh
ginger or 1/4 powdered ginger
1/8 t clove
1/3 c. chopped nuts (optional)
Beat the oil and molasses together. Add the eggs and pumpkin
and beat until thoroughly mixed. Sift or stir the dry ingredients together. Add
the pumpkin mixture and nuts Stir lightly but thoroughly. Spread in a 9"
by 13" pan. Bake in a pre-heated 350° oven 25 to 30 minutes. Frost, if
desired, with cream cheese thinned with orange juice concentrate.
Rima at email@example.com.