Pumpkins! From pumpkin carving to pick your own

Now that it's Fall, pumpkins are very in season and can be used for many purposes.

Now that it’s Fall, pumpkins are very in season and can be used for many purposes.

It’s pumpkin fever! This is the time of year when this uber-popular winter squash is king. Pumpkins are being carved, roasted, baked into pastry and chucked. Colleges are hosting pumpkin carving contests and pumpkin drops. Check if your local farm offers pick your own pumpkins and if your local community has a pumpkin festival and corn maze. Get into the spirit of college life and do something with a pumpkin!

Pick your own pumpkin

This is the time of year when you can go to a local farm and pick your own pumpkin (“pepon,” Greek for large melon). Prices are per pound, and you can select the biggest one you can find, tiny ones for decorations, medium ones for carving or cooking or whatever size you find the most manageable. Farms may also have pick your own apples, apple cider, a corn maze, hay rides, and pies and breads.

Pumpkin carving

Carving vegetables to ward off evil spirits began in pagan Europe, but it was the turnip, not the pumpkin (which originated in Central America). “Originally they were simply pierced to emit light, and were carried to scare away the spirits from the Otherworld who could enter the mortal realm,” said Verlyn Flieger, a mythology specialist at the University of Maryland. “Designed to ward off scary faces, [gourds] gradually took on the aspects of the very foes they were supposed to forestall,” she told LiveScience.com in “Why We Carve Pumpkins, Not Turnips” by Heather Whipps, October 29, 2009.

Since Halloween is almost here, find a pumpkin, summon up your artistic side and carve away. Stencils can be found online. Carve the traditional triangle face, or be unique and carve your college letters or sports team logo, a silhouette of a person or scene, a scary cat, spider webs or a skull. This season, participate in a pumpkin carving contest or start your own on campus.

Pumpkin seeds

After carving your pumpkin, save the seeds. High in zinc and vitamin E, pumpkin seeds can be roasted and munched as a healthy snack. Separate the seeds from the pulp, rinse the seeds in water then dry with a paper towel. Toss the seeds lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with spices such as salt, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, parmesan, oregano or ginger. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a greased cookie sheet and roast for 20 minutes. You can eat the shell along with the seed inside. Or you can buy seeds shelled and bagged.

Pumpkin drop

In late October, West Virginia University holds its Annual Pumpkin Drop, a feat of engineering prowess. “The goal of the pumpkin drop competition is to design an enclosure or apparatus to protect a pumpkin from damage when dropped from the roof of the 11 story high WVU Engineering Sciences Building. The surviving pumpkins that land closest to a target on the ground and pumpkin carrying device having the best design will be among the winning entries.”

Pumpkin run and walk

Fond du Lac College in Minnesota sponsors a five kilometer race and festival. Participants are encouraged to wear costumes or orange clothes. Awards and prizes are given to best costumes and group performance.

Pumpkin recipes

Yummy and good for you, pumpkin flesh is low in calories and high in antioxidants, beta-carotene, potassium and vitamins A and C. Pumpkin pie is the most traditional serving suggestion, but Stacey Oswald at CollegeSocialMagazine.com has gathered a veritable cornucopia of tasty treats in “The Fall’s Best Pumpkin Recipes” posted October 3, 2013. “I can’t wait to start delving into my extensive collection of pumpkin recipes. I know for a fact that God created pumpkin so it could be paired with chocolate, so a lot of my favorite recipes include this combination,” said Stacey.

Stacey offers recipes for:

• pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

• vegan hot pumpkin mug (like hot cocoa but without the cocoa)

• homemade pumpkin frozen yogurt

• pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

• gluten-free pumpkin chocolate chip pizookie

• peanut butter chocolate chip pumpkin bread

• healthy maple-glazed pumpkin muffins

Punkin’ chunkin’

Yes, there is a sport called “Punkin’ Chunkin’.” Grown adults build elaborate machines costing thousands of dollars to compete to see who can throw, shoot or chuck a pumpkin the farthest. Categories of devices include human power, catapult, trebuchet, air pressure and centrifugal (giant spinning cranes). Pumpkins are chucked thousands of feet into the air! If there’s one in your area, visit a local festival that has a punkin’ chunkin’ contest around Halloween or Thanksgiving. The festivals usually also include food, crafts, vendors, pumpkin food contests and music.

Do you like pumpkin? What’s your favorite way to eat pumpkin?

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