Did you know that pumpkins are really a fruit? They are members of the Cucurbitaceae Family (how’d you like that for a last name?), the same family to which cucumbers, gourds and melons belong. Indigenous pumpkins have probably been growing in the United States for at least 5,000 years. Not the same pumpkins of course. Unless you count the one grown by Dave Stelts of Leetonia, Ohio that weighed in at 1,140 pounds.
So, the question of the day is, if you were Mr. Stelts, and you had over 1,000 pounds of pumpkin sitting on your front porch, what in the world would you do with it? We asked our employees, friends and family here at Lehman’s for some of their best pumpkin stories. We will include some recipes, but we are talking unusual pumpkins stories.
Kathi, one of our Customer Service Representatives, takes the cake (or pie, as the case may be) with her story of pumpkins and true love.
The year was 1994. Erin, Kathi’s son, was searching for a creative way to propose to his girlfriend. Kathi was growing Jack Be Little pumpkins and that gave him an idea. “It was October 27, at midnight,” he recalled. “I carved ‘would you marry me’ into the side of the pumpkin and cleaned it out. I had the foresight to put the ring in a baggie, so it wouldn’t get all gooey (or she might not have accepted it!). I took the pumpkin to her house, set it on her kitchen counter and waited for her. When she got home from work, she saw it and immediately said ‘yes!'”
Erin and Tonya were married in 1995 and now have three beautiful children.
Another employee, Jeannie, got creative with pumpkins she purchased from a local farmer. We were having a harvest meal in our offices and she wanted eco-friendly, inexpensive centerpieces. She had pumpkins on her mind but wasn’t sure how to use them. Jeannie took the pumpkins home and put them on her kitchen table when it occurred to her that they could be cleaned out and, with a touch of floral foam inside, would hold lovely, fresh flowers.
Elaine, who works in the stove department in our retail store, wanted to stack pumpkins outside Lehman’s for a festive touch. But of course, being round, pumpkins don’t stack very well. So she went to a local manufacturer and had them create a metal pole, which she implanted into the ground. Then she speared the pumpkins, creating a lovely, tall stack of orange orbs. She started with the large ones on the bottom, to make it look more realistic, but actually tilted the top ones. Customers were amazed that we were able to defy gravity!
If you get the pumpkins while they are still small, you can actually etch something into them (sort of a scarring process) and when they grow, the etching will be larger. We asked a local farmer with an artistic touch to carve our logo into the pumpkins. They are now sitting proudly outside the store. We also have a wooden and hay horse, whose head is created out of (you guessed it) a pumpkin.
You can also use a hollowed-out pumpkin as a dish or a bowl. Just make sure to choose one that is the right size to hold the food you are serving, and one that has a flat bottom, so it doesn’t tip over. Use a marker to draw a curved line around the top. Cut the top off, clean it out and put a clear plastic container inside. Fill it with dip, soup or the main dish. Plus, you don’t have to wash it when you are done. Just toss it in on the compost pile!
You can also use a pumpkin as the way to serve your treats. I like to use a more oblong pumpkin, and arrange lollipops in a fun design. Perhaps one that says I Love Fall, or Trick or Treat. Keep in mind, though, that as the children pull the candy out of the pumpkin, your words will fall apart.
And here is a recipe from my grandmother. Pearl, my aunt, works at Lehman’s and she has fond memories of making “real” pumpkin pie, not from a can but from an actual pumpkin. “It was more work, but it tasted better,” she said with a smile.
Mom’s Pumpkin Pie
- pumpkin pie spice
8 squares graham cracker crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
2 c. milk, (heat till warm)
Mix first 5 ingredients, add cracker crumbs and eggs. Stir well and add the milk. Pour into an unbaked crust in a 9″ pie plate. Sprinkle a little of each spice on top.
Bake at 400Â° for l5 min. Then 350Â° for 45 min. or until pie is set.
Because we are surrounded by wonderful Amish food in northeast Ohio, I would be remiss if I didn’t include this recipe. I have seen it printed with variations, but this one is a favorite of mine. We like to serve it warm with homemade vanilla ice cream and cider.
Amish Pumpkin Bread
1 Â½ cups of honey OR 2 cups of brown sugar
1 C. vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1 lb. can pumpkin (or fresh pumpkin if you are really ambitious)
3 Â½ C. whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
A generous pinch of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg
2/3 Cups water
Chopped walnuts can also be added.
Mix sugar, oil and eggs together. Add pumpkin and beat very well. Add dry ingredients, then water, stirring just until mixed. Pour into bread pan or other pan of choice.
Bake at 350Â° for about 50 minutes. It might take an hour or more to bake, though.