Most fall produce, like pumpkins and hard squash are colorful and decorative — but they’re also delicious! Don’t let their hard exteriors discourage you; on the inside, they’re real softies. Watch this month’s cooking video to see how easy it is to roast pumpkins and hard squash whole.
Most pumpkins are edible, though many hybrids bred for carving tend to be bland or have little flesh. Some of the meatiest and most flavorful pumpkins are old varieties like Long Island cheese, Connecticut field, jarrahdale and an unusual Tennessee tradition, the cushaw melon, which is neither a melon nor a pumpkin but, nevertheless, is known for its superior pumpkin flavor. Names like sugar and New England pie are small-sized, old varieties perfect for both cooking and carving.
The surest way to get the freshest, best autumn produce for kitchen use is to buy straight from the farm or farmers market. Your farmer will be able to tell you what’s an edible squash or pumpkin and what’s a gourd — which isn’t edible at all. Just don’t try to use a pumpkin as a lantern one day and then use the rest for cooking the next; a pumpkin needs to be cooked at the time it is cut. Decorate with these autumnal gems through the fall, and then, as the season ends, put to good use as seasonal sources of nutrition and flavor those without soft spots or wrinkles. Pumpkin freezes well and will substitute for squash and sweet potatoes in recipes.