Autumn in Northeast Ohio brings colorful foliage and sidewalk menu boards featuring gourds, squash and apples. A drive through the Ohio countryside, or a quick perusal of your local farmers market or grocery store, reveals a seasonal landscape dotted with one particularly orange gourd: the pumpkin. Come late October, the brightly colored, festive orb becomes a ubiquitous sight, though most are destined to be carved and decorated with the most ghostly of intentions. However, there are many delicious uses for pumpkins.
As one Oberlin farmers market farmer told me, this year was the “worst year for apples since '82”, a problem owing to sparse rainfall this summer. In autumn, this means less delicious cider, so I took inspiration from the Harry Potter series, and one of the preferred drinks served at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: pumpkin juice. Unlike the juice of a cantaloupe or watermelon, the actual water content of a pumpkin is relatively small, so I like to combine the pumpkin juice with either apple and/or orange juice, and some ginger. Ginger has warming properties that make it nice for this time of year, when our bodies are transitioning from the hot, humid summer days to the brisk fall evenings.
While apples may have been in short supply this year, it was pumpkins that fared poorly last year, when torrential rains destroyed the majority of pumpkin patches. While pumpkin has been a long-term Ohio native crop, most canned pumpkin comes from the Northwest coast of the United States. If you're passionate about eating local, don't miss the opportunity to buy locally grown pumpkin (or grow it yourself) and puree or juice it at home, a completely low-labor task.
Another great thing about pumpkins are the seeds that can be salvaged for dehydrating and snacking on later. In addition to being tasty, the seeds have many health benefits, including arthritic pain relief (they're an anti-inflammatory agent). They are also high in zinc, which is key to keeping colds at bay and for maintaining bone density. The seeds can be made into a savory snack with spices like cumin, cayenne or chili powder, or sweet with the addition of cinnamon, turbinado or coconut sugars, or nutmeg.
Pumpkin recipes are endless. Soups and pies seem to be the most common usage, but by juicing the raw pumpkin prior to cooking, you retain more of the many nutritional components the pumpkin has to offer us.
Here is a simple juicing recipe for the pumpkin and other fruits you may have on hand that would have a higher juice output:
24 oz. pumpkin
1 inch ginger
Juicer (a blender or food processor will also work, though you may need to work in batches)
Remove sections of pumpkin and scrape off seeds. Take a knife and cut between the flesh and skin instead of trying to peel off all the skin yourself, a much more difficult task.
Feed the pumpkin flesh through the juicer. Peel orange and ginger skins, and juice the ginger followed by the oranges.Blend the pumpkin, orange and ginger juices. Chill or serve as is.