The Tasteful Garden: How to grow and cook what you love to eat

Tasteful Garden: For fresh pumpkin pie this fall, plant now

June 14, 2013 

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Time to sow seeds now, for Ginger-Orange Pumpkin Pie.

NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO — Jim Bounds

Carol Stein grows it

For holiday pies and fall decorating, sow pumpkin seeds before the end of June.

Pumpkins take 75 to 100 days to mature after the seeds germinate.

Varieties of 15- to 25-pound pumpkins include Autumn Gold, Howden and Connecticut Field and need large garden spaces.

But not all pumpkins are giants. Semi-bush varieties such as Spirit Hybrid produce 10- to 12-pound pumpkins. Orange Cutie has 2- to 4-pound fruit on 4- to 5-foot vines. Wee-Be-Little grows baseball-size pumpkins prolifically on bush-type plants that get about 6 feet tall and wide.

Choose semi-bush and bush types for small gardens or large containers because the plants require less space.

In the ground, sow seeds in rich, well-draining garden soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 6.5. Add a layer of organic mulch to retain moisture and control weeds.

Use containers that hold at least 15 gallons of fresh potting mix to grow smaller pumpkins. Sprinkle slow-release fertilizer, following package directions, or mix in composted manure or leaf mold to bolster nutrient levels in both garden soils and potting mix.

Plant in full sun and near summer flowering plants that are likely to attract pollinators. If bees don’t visit the pumpkin flowers, pollinate the female flowers using a small, soft paintbrush.

Female flowers have swollen pumpkin “embryos” at the base, while male flowers do not. Transfer pollen from male flowers to female flowers for three to four days once both are blooming.

Keep soils evenly moist but not soggy. Additional irrigation may be required as pumpkins mature.

You can let the vines run along the patio or ground, or train them on sturdy trellises. Either method works for the smaller varieties. If you prefer trellised vines, larger pumpkins will need support as they grow. Many people fashion slings from old pantyhose.

If pumpkins rest on the ground, turn larger varieties occasionally to prevent flat spots, being careful not to break the stems.

Harvest pumpkins when they are uniform in color and sound hollow when thumped with a finger. Cut the stems several inches above the pumpkin, and don’t pick up freshly cut pumpkins by the stems, which are fragile until cured.

If not using pumpkins immediately, cure them to extend their shelf life. Leave the harvested pumpkins exposed outdoors in dry, sunny conditions for about a week to harden the skin and stem.

Debbie Moose cooks it

According to Linus in “Peanuts,” the Great Pumpkin looks for a pumpkin patch with “nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”

But even if the Great Pumpkin doesn’t show this Halloween, you’ll have some sincerely good things to eat.

Pumpkins are an all-American fruit – when the English colonists arrived, they found Native Americans growing and using them. Pumpkin pie became an early tradition for Thanksgiving in the colonies. Pumpkin is also used in African cooking.

While there are contests at farmers markets each fall for the largest pumpkin (they can weigh hundreds of pounds), smaller pumpkins generally yield more tender and flavorful flesh, and are easier to handle.

Look for pumpkins that are free of blemishes and soft spots, and that seem heavy for their size. Pumpkins can be stored at room temperature for a month or refrigerated for up to three months.

To prepare fresh pumpkin puree for use in pies, cakes or muffins, cut the pumpkin in half through the center, then remove the seeds and stringy bits from the inside. The seeds, called pepitas in Mexican cooking, can be roasted for a snack or salad garnish.

Place the halves, cut sides down, on a greased cookie sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven for an hour or so, depending on the size of the pumpkin, until you can easily pierce the flesh with a fork. Let the halves cool, then scoop out the flesh and puree it in a blender. Cooked pumpkin can be frozen in airtight freezer bags for several months.

Reach Carol Stein and Debbie Moose at tastefulgarden@hotmail.com.

For a printable copy of the recipe, click the link:

Ginger-Orange Pumpkin Pie

Ginger-Orange Pumpkin Pie This pie offers a change from the usual spice-related pumpkin pie flavors. A version of this recipe using sweet potato puree is in my new cookbook, “Buttermilk: A Savor the South Cookbook” published by the University of North Carolina Press. 1 (9-inch) unbaked piecrust 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup buttermilk 1 1/2 cups pureed and cooked fresh pumpkin, or canned pumpkin 2 eggs 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

HEAT the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the crust.

IN a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, ginger, orange zest and salt until combined and no lumps remain. Add the buttermilk, pumpkin, eggs and butter. With an electric mixer, beat the ingredients until the mixture is smooth.

POUR the mixture into the piecrust. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the edges have puffed up slightly and the center does not feel liquid when tapped lightly with a finger. Cool to room temperature before slicing. Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie

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