Ornamental Squash and Pumpkins as Food

decorative squash, ornamental squash, supermarket pumpkins

Let’s talk about ornamental squash and pumpkins as food. Have you ever noticed that in late summer many beautiful squash and pumpkins appear in the produce section? Not many people purchase them for food, and, judging by the price, I can understand. They’re usually quite expensive! However few realize that they can be used for food, as they are not accustomed to using the amazing array of squash and pumpkin that are available. Take a look through the images in this article. Every single one of these is good to eat.

What’s the difference between a squash and a pumpkin?

Any serious discussion about this kind of food will come around to this question and unfortunately, the English language confuses the issue. We have two terms: “squash” and “pumpkin,” which are nearly interchangeable. “Squash” is derived from a Narraganset word and “pumpkin” has European origins. Many times Americans want to use “pumpkin” to refer to round, large, often orange colored squash, yet there is much confusion.

Green Country Seed Savers: Categories of Squash

I still remember, when I was a boy, and a giant pumpkin contest exploded into contention after it was contended that the winning pumpkin wasn’t really a pumpkin, but rather a squash! For practical purposes I’d just as well call them all squash. Anyone care to carve a “Halloween squash?” The distinction between these terms is blurry at best. Just enjoy them all!

People need to know how to use squash/ pumpkin for more than just pie.

Folk rarely use them for pie these days, but worse yet, few know anything else to do with them. Perhaps this is why they waste these squash, tossing them in the trash after Thanksgiving.

Here are some ways to use cooked squash:

  1. Try it as a side dish. Just cook it, scoop it and eat it. I like to bake it, in order to keep it come getting watery. Then I usually add either butter and salt, or some brown sugar. It’s delicious!
  2. Dice pumpkin/squash into cubes, while raw and use as an ingredient in stir fry. This is really a wonderful way to use such a nutritious food. Here’s a link to a Cushaw Squash Recipe by Glenn and Linda Drowns of Sandhill Preservation Center. It can be used in the place of rice or potatoes. You have to go a ways down the page to find it.
  3. Cooked squash can even be incorporated into breads or pancakes.

    Sourdough pumpkin Pancakes
    These pancakes were made with both sourdough and pumpkin. Good!
  4. Enjoy some pumpkin soup. Oh my goodness, that is so good! We love pumpkin soup with fresh homemade sourdough bread or dumplings.
  5. Try Pumpkin Atole, a delicious drink, hot or cold.
Jack O'Lantern Pumpkins
Regular Jack O Lantern pumpkins make acceptable squash if processed correctly.

Buy them when they’re cheap.

Before Halloween a single pumpkin can cost much more than it’s worth for food, but right after Halloween they’re cheap. The day after Halloween I’ve walked into a store and bought a cart load for very little. For that matter, I’ve picked them them up for free, right off the curb! Right after Thanksgiving all those ornamental squash become dirt cheap too. That’s the time to purchase them.

Giant Pumpkin, Dills Atlantic Giant Pumpkin
The really large pumpkin varieties were developed for feeding animals, but that doesn’t mean they won’t for for our food.

One time I walked into a garden center just before before the first real hard freeze of the season. It was December, and pumpkins were passé. No one wanted them now. I asked about a giant pumpkin, weighing about 50 lbs and the proprietor let me have it for $5. He knew, if he didn’t sell it, it would freeze and spoil within the week. So I took it home and processed it, socking away enough delicious squash to last the next  8 months!

 

How to process large quantities of squash

First of all, remember that many of the hard shelled squash will keep for months with no special attention. Just keep them from freezing, and you’re good. You can get to them at your leisure. But if you have a whole lot or some really large ones, you’ll want to process them for convenience sake.

Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. (You can salt and roast them for food, if you like).

large squash, large pumpkin, Old Timey Cornfield Pumpkin

  • Lay the halves on a cookie sheet and bake them until soft (350 F. until a fork easily penetrates the skin). Use a tray with edges, in order to catch liquids that will come out of the squash.
  • Remove it form the oven and scoop out the flesh, bagging 2 or 3 cup portions in zip-lock bags. Label the bags.frozen bag of squash, frozen squash
  • Lay these bags flat, on a tray and freeze them. After frozen, they can be stacked in the freezer for easy access.
  • Afterwards it’s easy to grab a bag of squash and use it however you’d like.

 

Tip: If a squash or pumpkin seems to have stringy, coarse flesh after being cooked, put it through a blender or food processor. This usually improves its quality a great deal.

Do you have a favorite way of buying cheaply to save money and stock up? We’d love to hear about it in the comments area.

 

 

 

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