We started a pick your own pumpkin patch in 2008. This may not sound like a big deal to some, but in the midst of vast row crop farms and beef cattle, it was a rarity at the time. We started raising a few pumpkins for wholesale, just to add a little extra income to our hog production. We didn’t really know much about pumpkin production, and had to just kinda jump in and start from scratch. They did fairly well, considering the Tennessee humidity could be problematic, but we made a good crop for a couple years. However, the one request we kept getting was from families who wanted to come and let their kids actually pick their own pumpkin and make it a family outing. So the next year, we decided to go for it and open our farm to families. One complication…we had our second baby 5 days before we opened!
It was a stressful start, but like most businesses, it grows every year and gets better with time and experience. We try to add new things every year and make the best with what we have. When we started the pick your own season on the farm, people made fun of us….mostly behind our backs, but a few to our face. One person said, “If you can get pumpkins to grow here, I’ll eat every one!” Well, we have had good years and bad as far as pumpkin crops, but I’d hate to know how many pumpkins that would be! WE have eaten a lot of pumpkins over the years and I have perfected several “pumpkin recipes”.
For some reason, actually using the pumpkin for anything but decorations, seems to be scary or too much of a hassle for most people, but it is actually really easy! You can cook any kind of pumpkin, as long as it’s a real pumpkin and not a gourd. You can usually tell this by the skin. A gourd will have very tough skin and be fairly tough to cut through. I have probably cooked and eaten just about every kind of pumpkin that we have grown, and all are edible, but some have better flavor and texture. My favorites to cook with are the jarrahdale, cinderella, and cushaw (which is what the old folks call a potato pumpkin). Don’t be intimidated, try it, and everyone will be impressed at how much value you got out of your fall decorations!
How to Cook Fresh Pumpkin:
Wash the outside of pumpkin. You want to include the skin in your pumpkin puree because it has great flavor and that is where lots of the nutrients are also!
Cut the top off, like you are going to carve it for a jack o’ lantern, and scoop out all the insides and seeds.
Separate the seed and put aside. Throw away all the rest of the “goop”.
Now cut the pumpkin in 2-6 pieces, depending on size. I usually keep mine pretty big, about 4 pieces, so don’t feel like you have to do a lot of chopping.
Spray or brush inside and outside of each piece with oil. I have used a variety of different kinds, and they all work fine.
Place on a baking sheet and bake on 300 until the pieces are “fork tender”.
Put in a food processor or blender to make the puree.
Put in freezer bags (or jars if you are going to can) I try to measure about 1-2 cups per bag because that is what most of my recipes call for.
My kids especially love to have roasted pumpkin seeds as a snack!
Clean off as much of the pumpkin “goop” as you can.
Rinse the seeds and let drain.
Lay out to dry or pat dry with a towel.
Spread them out on a baking sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Add your favorite seasoning! We love to use a package of dry ranch dressing. Or you can simply do salt and pepper. Red pepper flakes and a little dry ranch seasoning, or try cinnamon and sugar!
Bake on 350 until crispy and brown.
Pumpkin Muffins-using fresh pumpkin:
1 1/2 cups flour
2 cups of puree pumpkin (fresh or frozen) I have also used sweet potato puree when I was out of pumpkin.
2 cups of oatmeal (quick)
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of white sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
Add the extras! I use this recipe to literally add whatever I have on hand that I want to sneak past my kids-flax seed, chia seeds, nuts, raisins, coconut, protein powder, you name it! I usually can add less than 1/2 cup without having to adjust the other ingredients.
Mix together and put in muffin tins. Bake on 350 for 10-15 minutes.