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Pumpkins: More than just a scary face

Bradley patch carves out a nice place for 'super food' dishes

POSTED: October 26, 2011 8:27 a.m.
Michelle Boaen Jameson/The Times

Bradley's Pumpkin Patch in Dawsonville grows a variety of pumpkins and squash, which are good for more than just decoration and carving. Pumpkins are also considered a super food and can be used in lots of dishes.

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This time of year, folks have one thing in mind when they look at pumpkins: decorations.

But according to the folks at Bradley’s Pumpkin Patch in Dawsonville, the gourds aren’t just pretty on the outside; they’re also good for your insides.

"Pumpkins are a super food," said Karen Weaver, a volunteer at the pumpkin patch.

"They’re very nutritious."

According to DeeDee Stovel, author of "Pumpkin, a Super Food for All 12 months of the Year," pumpkin is high in fiber, low in calories and contains protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and beta-carotene.

This year, Weaver says the pumpkin patch, which her son Bradley Weaver started when he was just 5 years old, decided to introduce pumpkin cooking demonstrations.

"We always had little samples of things like pumpkin dip available in our gift shop, but this year we wanted to show people how much they can do with pumpkin," Weaver said.

"Some people are intimidated by cooking pumpkins, but they aren’t intimidated by little acorn squash or butternut squash. So if you relate the pumpkin to something they know, it’s like a light comes on."

Besides creating jack-o’-lanterns and pies, pumpkins can be used to create all types of dishes, including casseroles, chili, butter, bread and custards.

"A friend of mine showed me how to use my son’s pumpkins to cook with. They’re heirloom pumpkins and they have a really good taste to them," Weaver said.

"There are many ways to cook them, but I like to take the easy way. Some people roast them and then peel the skin off.

"I like to steam mine just like I do with butternut squash. I cut the pumpkin into pieces and put them in a pan of water in the oven to steam. Afterward, I scoop the insides out, puree it and freeze it until I’m ready to use it. You can cook with fresh pumpkin, too, but when I cook it, I like to make up a whole bunch and freeze the rest."

In addition to freezing the pumpkin’s meat, you can also dehydrate it and even can it.

"There’s nothing better than having a piece of pumpkin bread in the winter, but you can’t get pumpkin in January or February," Weaver said.

"Preserving it lets you enjoy pumpkin all year."

Even if you aren’t into storing your produce for later, you can expect to get a longer shelf life from the tan heirloom pumpkins than from their bright orange counterparts.

"Heirloom pumpkins have a thicker skin, so they last a lot longer," Weaver said.

Like their brothers, the heirloom varieties of pumpkins come in a number of sizes.

"We have had some that grow to be 80 or 90 pounds, but we also have some that only weigh a pound or two," Weaver said.

In addition to pumpkins, the Dawsonville growers also offer a number of other edible gourds, including cushaw.

"They’re in the squash family, but they grow almost as big as a pumpkin, they’re just shaped differently," Weaver said.

"At first, we thought we were growing them to be used as decorations, but then people started telling us they use them to make casseroles and pies. They really fly out of here."

Although they are happy to provide produce for decorative purposes, Weaver says she’d like to see more people not be so quick to pigeonhole all gourds.

"We’re trying to teach people how to eat healthier. Pumpkins are super healthy and nutritious," Weaver said.

"There’s nothing like pumpkins for decorating, but there’s also nothing like pumpkin for cooking, either."



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