It's Pumpkin Season!

 
The fall season and everything to do with it is fast becoming one of the most popular and most anticipated times of the year for many! And honestly, who can blame them? With all the gorgeous rich colours, the delicious comfort foods, fall themed outdoor activities, plus Thanksgiving AND Halloween, there is just so much to love and definitely something for everyone to enjoy. One of the most versatile parts of fall is without a doubt the pumpkin! We can use them for cooking, we can use them for décor, and even the mere mention of “Pumpkin Spiced” anything can stir delight and instill all the fall cravings. Even shopping for your pumpkin can be a fun activity for everyone in your home.

 

 

Halloween specifically is synonymous with pumpkin decorating, what we call the Jack-O-Lantern, where we carve (often) scary faces or scenes into the big beautiful orange gourds. Jack-O-Lanterns originally hailed from Ireland and were actually created not with pumpkins at all but in fact were scary faces carved into turnips and potatoes, of which Ireland has plenty. The English also partook in the tradition but used beets for their Jack-O-Lanterns. The name Jack-O-Lantern came from the Irish folktale of “Stingy Jack” about a cheap man who deceitfully tricked the devil into promising not to take his soul. When Stingy Jack died, he was not allowed in heaven because of his deceitful ways and since the devil had promised not to take his soul, he was sent into a dark night with only a piece of coal to light his way. Jack is said to have put the coal into a carved-out turnip to light his way through the dark and has remained a ghost roaming the Earth ever since, giving him the name Jack of the Lantern and then more simply Jack-O-Lantern. The Irish and English began to carve turnips, potatoes, and beets and place the scary faces in their windows and doorway to ward off Stingy Jack and any other wandering spirits. It wasn’t until Irish immigrants came to North America and discovered how well the pumpkin worked for their Jack-O-Lantern carvings.

 

Modern day Jack-O-Lanterns have evolved past just scary faces and now pumpkins can be carved into just about anything you can think of; the possibilities are endless. Not only has what we carve evolved but so has how we carve…or even if we carve at all. A simple knife can still get the job done to get a traditional carved pumpkin but carving kits are also widely available with specialty tools and stencils to allow anyone, regardless of ability and experience, to carve even the most intricate designs. Power drills are also fast becoming a great help for pumpkin decorating, they offer the ability to drill beautiful and intricate uniform patterns in no time at all!

 

 

Of course, with any pumpkin carving comes with it the task of hollowing out and scraping the insides of your pumpkin, this can also bring with it a bit of a mess, if the mess of carving isn’t for you, maybe painting would be more your speed. Painting also lends itself to endless possibilities for décor and definitely doesn’t have to limit itself to only Halloween décor. In fact, a gorgeously hand painted pumpkin can give life to your fall décor all season long. In fact, you can check out this awesome tutorial on pumpkin lettering from Colleen Pastoor at Lemon Thistle here : https://www.lemonthistle.com/handlettered-pumpkins/.

So now you have your gorgeous carved or painted (or both, or even a few of each!) pumpkins, you probably would love to keep them looking beautiful as long as possible. Now there are a few things that can be recommended to do this; the most common is so soak the pumpkin (carved or not) in a solution of 1-2 teaspoons of bleach mixed into a gallon of water for at least an hour to overnight. While this is common, it can also not be the safest in the long run and can pose a danger to children and animals (especially wild animals if ingested). More environmentally friendly options are to dilute to tablespoons of vinegar and one teaspoon of lemon juice into a quart of water and brush it all over your pumpkin. Another is to fill a spray bottle with water and peppermint dish soap (like castile soap) and spray the outside and inside of the pumpkin and wait for it to dry. To keep your pumpkin from shriveling up, it is suggested that petroleum jelly or even vegetable oil rubbed on your pumpkin can help prevent shriveling from occurring. Other simple tips for preserving your pumpkins are to ensure you thoroughly clean the inside after you carve, store it in the fridge or somewhere cool overnight, make sure to not keep it outdoors if temperatures dip below freezing, and use battery operated candles or glowsticks instead of real candles, as they heat up the inside and will essentially cook your pumpkin.

 

Now if cooking your pumpkin is something you’re into (nice segue hey?), there are countless ways for you to incorporate pumpkin into recipes for all members of your family (even the furry ones!). If you have already planned to carve your pumpkin, you can still create a snack out of the seeds. Pumpkin seeds are quite healthy and contain important vitamins and minerals like magnesium, vitamin K, iron, calcium, and potassium. They’re also great sources of protein, unsaturated fats like omega-6 fatty acids, and zinc which helps boost our immune systems. One of the easiest ways to prepare the seeds is to roast them. Once you’ve scooped the seeds our of your pumpkin, remove all the pumpkin slimy bits from the seeds and place them in a colander and rinse. Pat them dry with paper towel as the more moisture you leave behind the more likely it will create steam in the oven and prevent crisping and can also make it harder for your seasonings to adhere. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees (F) and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Mix your rinsed and dried seeds in a mixing bowl with your choice of oil or melted butter along with whichever seasonings you decide. Some seasoning options include something as simple as salt, or seasoning salt, or dried herbs or even taco seasoning. If you’re looking for something on the sweeter side, try some sugar and cinnamon with a little vanilla. Lay your seeds evenly on the baking sheet and roast them in the oven for 45 minutes, then increase the temperature to 325 for another five minutes. Remove them from the oven, let them cool and enjoy (any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container).
We all deserve to indulge in pumpkin treats, from pie to scones, to ravioli to risotto, there is a pumpkin dish for everyone’s palette. But what about our four-legged best friends? Did you know that dogs love pumpkin too and not only that but it is good for our furry buddies as well! The flesh of the pumpkin is high in soluble fibre and can help feed beneficial gut bacteria, it even contains an amino acid that will paralyze and eliminate parasites from your dog’s digestive tract. Pumpkin can also be a great relief to any dog suffering from diarrhea and constipation. Dog’s often love pumpkin plain or mixed with a bit of their food for an easy treat. You can also incorporate pumpkin into your own homemade dog treats. An easy and yummy recipe for pumpkin dog treats found here courtesey of Food With Feeling’s page: https://foodwithfeeling.com/healthy-pumpkin-dog-treats/
Ingredients

1/2 cup of pureed pumpkin (canned or fresh)
2 tablespoons of coconut oil, softened
4 tablespoons of water, plus more if needed
2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1 egg

 

 instructions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degree F.
Mix the pumpkin, softened coconut oil, and water together in a large bowl.
Then mix in the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder
Mix it a bit and then stir in the egg.
Continue to stir until it’s ALL combined. This might take a good minutes and feel free to add a touch more water in order to get all of the mixture into one solid, slightly sticky ball.
Once done, roll the dough out on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thick.
Using a cookie cutter, cut out treats. These can be as small or as large as you want them (depending on the size of your dogs. I realize not everyone has giant dogs like me)
Place prepared dough treats on a lined/ greased baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes (depending on size) or until dough has hardened.
Let cool and enjoy your pups excitement!
notes
***Important update!: If you don’t cook these treats until they’re totally dry and hard (like a traditional dog biscuit) then you need to store these in the refrigerator! Either way, it wouldn’t hurt to put them in the fridge to store them.

 

 

 Whether you decide to use pumpkins in all your fall décor or your autumnal cuisine or even if you decide to do a bit of both, there’s no question that these fantastic orange gourds give life to this beautiful season and offer us a plethora of options to utilize their vast greatness in many different ways. The versatility of this member of the squash family and its symbolic nature in our fall holidays makes it one of the most well rounded (pun intended) piece of the fall season.

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