Pumpkins, the magical vegetable

Pumpkin display at Chelsea Market, Meatpacking District, New York City

Homer Simpson thought that the pig was a wonderful, magical animal, well I think pumpkins are the magical vegetable.  Not just because a simple Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo can transform a dowdy pumpkin into a beautiful, elegant carriage for Cinderella’s ball but because pumpkins are the most versatile vegetable: in cuisine, in decor, and even in fairy tales.

Pumpkins have many faces: literally. Pumpkin craving contests never get old for children and adults. And it’s not just about the actual activity of pumpkin craving, it’s everything that leads up to it. I used to love going to the pumpkin patch as a child, wearing my rubber boots and stomping across the field of mud, dirt and endless rows and rows of pumpkins, each one a different shape, size and even colour (there are more shades of orange than you can imagine). As a kid I used to love the baby pumpkins, the runts of the patch, and I still do. It’s probably dorky for me to admit that I go wild over dinner table center pieces that feature baby pumpkins, red and yellow autumn leaves and acorns.

Marzipan pumpkins and fruits, Sant Ambroeus Espresso Bar, 1000 Madison Ave., New York City

Before we get technical with the culinary terms, I should point out that, yes, pumpkins are really fruits in botanical terms. Fruits have seeds and vegetables do not. But you’ll notice that in most dishes, pumpkins and other squashes are categorized as vegetables. This is mainly because pumpkins are not sweet like apples, berries and peaches. Pumpkins are the true chameleons of autumn cuisine. Everywhere you look during the fall season, you’ll find pumpkin: during breakfast, for lunch or dinner and even in desserts and drinks. It’s not officially Autumn until Starbucks starts serving their trademark seasonal Pumpkin Spice latte and other pumpkin breakfast goodies such as pumpkin loaves and pumpkin cream cheese muffins. At the dinner table, while pumpkins are wonderful in savoury dishes such as creamy and buttery pumpkin ravioli, they are also tasty in the Autumn dessert staple: pumpkin pie. Nothing says Thanksgiving like the smooth, thick, brown, nutty and spicy filling of a warm pumpkin pie with a generous dollop of whipped cream.

Pumpkins are magical in the kitchen, in folklore and best of all in our tummies.

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