Monday, November 16, 2009

Pumpkins a’plenty

The graduate housing at the university has a community garden associated with it, and though we do not live there, through some good connections Nathanael was able to rent one of their garden plots last year. Since we were married in August, I had no part in the hard work of gardening. Nathanael did all of the seed selection, planting, weeding and maintenance of the garden on his own all summer and I arrived just in time for the easy part: harvest time. From the time I arrived there was no rain at all for more than five weeks, but water is available to each of the plots. Through the end of August until early October we made weekly or bi-weekly visits to the garden usually on our tandem bicycle, filling a backpack with the basil, tomatoes, carrots and peppers, which became a large part of our diet. As the season wrapped up there was one thing we could not carry on our bike…well, twelve things actually.
Nathanael had planted two pumpkin seeds, which resulted in two enormous vines that merrily took over our garden and filled it with twelve large Cinderella pumpkins. In order to collect these beasts we would put them in a wheelbarrow and rolled them down the long hill to our car.
One Saturday afternoon, when we had not been to the garden in over a week and our kitchen compost was brimming to the top, we decided to venture out and collect a few pumpkins and a bit more basil and tomatoes before the frost came. When we stepped outside we realized that it looked like rain was coming, but we were pretty determined and anticipated a quick trip. When we arrived at our plot there was strange stillness. Out of the acres of plots covering the hillside ours was the only one with gardeners foolish enough not to have realized that enormous thunderclouds were blowing in at quite a ridiculous speed.
Hurriedly clipping basil and picking tomatoes, the two of us stuffed our bags and piled pumpkins into the wheelbarrow as all layers of our clothing stuck with wetness and our shoes began to slosh. Not wanting to be struck with lightning, we decided to leave the pumpkins and run to the car. By the time we were half way down the hill we could hear each other when we shouted but not make out the words.
After we had waited out the thunder, we returned to the plot and collected our pumpkins while the purple swirled sky subsided to a drizzle. The square bottomed wheelbarrow had about a centimeter of water covering its bottom.
The storm did not pick up again until we had begun to drive, increasing to cherry sided hail for about three minutes while we found street parking. The roadsides were flooded with rushing water, melting hail and bits of garbage, but our shoes were already soaked through, so we sloshed our way to the door and made our way inside, relieved at the warmth.
Since then we have been canning, cooking and baking with pumpkins, and attempting to give them away.
There are still three in our apartment.

This pumpkin using recipe is adapted from the book Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld, which I recommend to anyone with excess vegetable purees lying around, or to cooks who serve a crowed that just doesn’t have a taste for ordinary vegetables.

Pumpkin Banana Peanut Butter Muffins

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup pumpkin puree (or nearly any mild vegetable really)
½ cup thoroughly squished banana
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Mix ½ cup of the sugar with the pumpkin, banana, egg, vanilla and peanut butter. In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients. Add wet and dry until just mixed. Divide into a greased muffin pan (12 muffins), and divide the remaining ½ cup of brown sugar onto the muffin tops and stir once shallowly to make the sugar stick.
Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack. Store when completely cool.


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