Friday, 28 October 2016

ThriftWitch: Getting The Most Out Of Your Pumpkin This Samhain

Oh yes, it's that time of year again. Whether you call it Samhain or Halloween, the shops are full of pumpkins just waiting to be carved into spooky Jack o'Lanterns. But is that all you normally do with yours? The young daughter of a friend of mine expressed shock when she heard me talking about cooking pumpkin recently. "But you can't eat them!" She declared. "They're poisonous, aren't they?" I was even more shocked than her; surely children know pumpkins are edible? Well evidently not. Presumably for some people they are just a Halloween decoration. What a waste! My inner ThriftWitch has decided this just won't do. So here is my list of suggestions, both culinary and magical, for getting the best possible value and most use out of your pumpkin this year.

Firstly, if you do want it as a Samhain/Halloween decoration, don't carve it too soon. Pumpkins really don't last very long once their protective tough outer layer has been cut, so for best results don't carve them more than 24 hours ahead of time. My friend's husband carved her a beautiful Jack o'Lantern that was a work of art - but unfortunately he did it a week before Samhain and it had turned to mush by the time it was needed. 

Keep all the flesh for your favourite recipes. Pumpkin pie is of course the classic dish, though I have to confess at this stage I'm not a fan (heresy, I know). But if you'd like to make a pumpkin pie just Google recipes and I'm sure you'll find something to tempt you. Personally, I usually make Pumpkin Soup, but you could also try converting the flesh into many other sweet or savoury dishes, or even chutney or pickle. If you like the soup idea, though you could try this:

Moonroot's Pumpkin Soup  
Scoop out the flesh of a pumpkin. Separate out the seeds and put to one side. Chop the flesh into chunks, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and chilli powder and roast at 180°C until it's soft and a little caramelised. Meanwhile, chop and fry an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic until soft. Sprinkle in some ground cumin and paprika, and perhaps some finely chopped ginger, saute for another 5 minutes and remove from the heat. When the pumpkin is cooked, add to the onion mixture, and pour in a tin of chopped tomatoes, a squirt of tomato puree and enough vegetable stock to cover. Simmer for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to blend, then whizz in a food processor to a smooth consistency. Check seasoning and adjust to taste. Just before serving stir in chopped fresh coriander leaves and a swirl of single cream or natural yogurt if liked. Enjoy!

What about the pumpkin seeds? Well they are delicious roasted, and it couldn't be simpler. 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Just clean off as much of the stringy flesh as you can, give them a rinse and spread them out on a baking tray. Drizzle them with a little oil and soy sauce (give them a quick stir to ensure they're evenly coated, then spread them back out evenly). Roast for about 10 mins at 180°C. Allow to cool and enjoy with a nice cool glass of something.

Pumpkin Magic
What about magically? You could keep back a few of the washed, uncooked seeds and use a marker pen to inscribe them with runes to use for divination. Or choose a rune to symbolise what you want to draw into your life, inscribe it on a seed/some seeds and plant them in spring to 'grow' your desired outcome. Alternatively, you could inscribe what you want to be rid of on a spare seed or two and chuck them in the fire to burn it away!  And of course you can enchant your soup - or other pumpkin recipes - by murmuring spells and incantations over them as they cook, stirring in your wishes as you go. 

If you like you can also save a few seeds simply to try and grow next year's pumpkin. They do need a bit of room to sprawl, but if you can fit one in, try sowing the seed indoors in April, placing the flower pot or seed tray in a warm spot such as the airing cupboard. When it's germinated, keep it on a sunny windowsill and plant out when all danger of frost is past.  

Finally, when your Samhain ritual or Halloween party is over, put your carved pumpkin out in the garden. There are plenty of critters who will be glad of the chance to nibble it, and if you put it in an out of the way spot when the critters have finished it will decompose quickly, returning its goodness to the soil.

Samhain Blessings!