Pumpkins, Gourds and Squashes - Recipes

Desert Lil's Delicacies - A DesertUSA Food Feature

The world's largest and most unusual fruits come from members of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae), which includes over 700 species of squashes, gourds and pumpkins.

The terms "squash" and "pumpkin" apparently have no precise botanical meaning but can refer to any New World species of gourds. "Pumpkin" generally is used for any orange, round squash containing orange flesh. More accurately called "cucurbits" by afficiandos, the fruits of this diverse family grow in numerous shapes and sizes, from marble-sized "pumpkins" to giant "squashes" over seven feet long.

Entries in the World Pumpkin Confederation Annual Weigh-Off are considered pumpkins if creamy-yellow to orange. If green to gray or mottled in color, they are considered squashes.

In 1996, a 900-pound squash lost its title as the world's largest fruit to a 1,061-pound pumpkin. Growers Paula and Nathan Zehr say they used 150 gallons of water a day and a custom fertilizer mix containing 60 ingredients to achieve their prize-winning pumpkin.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the many varieties of squash and pumpkins grown today throughout the world originated from wild Cucurbita gourds cultivated for thousands of years by Native Americans.

Soft-rind summer squash (summer crookneck, straightneck, acorn, zucchini and white bush scallop) are all varieties of Cucurbita pepo, according to botanist Wayne Armstrong. Hard-rind winter squash (hubbard, banana, delicious, buttercup and turban) are varieties of Cucurbita maxima, he notes, while butternut squash and winter crookneck come from Cucurbita moschata. Pumpkins can be varieties of either C. pepo or C. maxima.

Halloween's association with pumpkins undoubtedly comes from the fact that gourds and squashes are ready for harvest in October, which means it's time, once again, to break out some great seasonal recipes. For ordinary pumpkin pie, I simply use the recipe printed on the can of pumpkin from the market. But try these unique pumpkin recipes, and if you're feeling adventurous, substitute other winter squashes at will.

Pumpkin Vegetable Soup
Serves 8

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 medium leeks, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cooked pumpkin puree, fresh or canned
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt

Sauté chopped onion and leeks with oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, until onion is transparent. Stir in remaining vegetables (minus parsley), stock, salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Cool, add yogurt then purée in a blender or food processor until slightly chunky. Return to the saucepan, add milk and parsley then simmer for 10 minutes without boiling. Serve with crackers or croutons.

Pumpkin-Avocado-Walnut Salad
Serves 4

  • 1 small pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 small red jalapeno chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 small avocados, diced in 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt

Toss pumpkin with 2 Tbsp oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt, then place on an oven tray and roast in a, 400 F. oven for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Gently combine roasted pumpkin with other ingredients, adding remainder of salt and oil, as well as vinegar last. Serve.

Curcurbit-Pumpkin-Zucchini Bread
Makes 2 loaves

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup vegetable oil or butter
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine flour, soda, powder, salt, spices and sugar in large mixing bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, pumpkin and zucchini. Stir until well mixed. Fold in nuts, wheat germ and raisins. Pour into two 9x5" loaf pans and bake appx. 1 hour, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool and serve, with cream cheese, if you like.

Sour Pumpkin Creme Pie
Serves 8

  • 1 1/3 cups 1/2 & 1/2
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 can 16 oz pumpkin
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 9-inch pie shell
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup sour cream (or yogurt)
  • 1 lemon peel, grated
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Mix first seven ingredients together thoroughly, then pour into pie shell. Bake at 425 F. for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F. and bake another 45 minutes, or until pick comes out clean. Cool 30 minutes; blend together sour cream, brown sugar, lemon juice and lemon peel. (If using plain yogurt, do not add lemon juice.) Spread mixture evenly over the pie and bake 10 minutes. Cool, then sprinkle with chopped pecans and serve.


Complete Index of Desert Lil's Delicacies


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