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Pumpkin-Eating Season

Recipes for humans and other fanciers

Jack-o-lanterns have withered, but pumpkins are not old news yet. November is the biggest month of the year for pumpkin consumption. Pie, ice cream, cheesecake, soup, muffins, bread and lattes all feature pumpkins this time of year. In anticipation of Thanksgiving, canned pumpkin sales soar. Ninety percent of canned pumpkin sales are made in the fourth quarter.
    Canned pumpkin is good, but Libby and all the other canners get it the same place you can: in the shell.
    In 15 years of pumpkin and squash farming, Sonia and Ray Wood, of Lothian, have become expert in turning cucurbits into good eating.
    Back when they got in the business, season’s end would leave them with dozens of pumpkins. Some of the remainders were wholesaled, others donated to church and food banks, still more shared with neighbors. They’ve since learned to coordinate plantings, yields and sales.

Sonja Wood sells several varieties of pumpkin and squash at the Anne Arundel County Farmers Market early each fall. Her favorites for cooking are the French varieties Galeux d’Eysenes, Cinderella and Fairy Tale.

    “This year we didn’t have many left,” Sonia says, after wrapping up sales at the Anne Arundel County Farmers Market.
    But plenty for cooking. A medium-sized pumpkin yields about 10 cups of pumpkin meat, plus seeds for roasting. Each variety has a different taste. Wood’s favorites for cooking are the French varieties Galeux d’Eysenes, Cinderella and Fairy Tale.
    Sonia bakes the pumpkin or winter squash, then scoops and freezes the flesh until it’s needed. Blending the threads of cooked flesh gives a more uniform consistency to her many recipes for pumpkin bread, soup, pie, stew and pancakes.
    For holiday gifts, she makes two dozen loaves of Amish pumpkin bread. Here’s her recipe:

Amish Pumpkin Bread
1 cup cooking oil
1 tsp. each of nutmeg, cinnamon and salt
4 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin
2/3 cup water
2 tsp. baking soda
3 cups flour

    Beat together the oil, spices, salt, eggs and sugar. Add the pumpkin, water, soda and flour. Pour into two medium or three small greased loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour.

Other Pumpkin Eaters
    We humans are not alone. At the National Zoo in Washington, orangutans, otters and giant pandas are also pumpkin eaters. Orangutans and otters get their pumpkin served raw. For otters, meal worms are packed inside the pumpkin.
    At the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, pumpkins are served to goats, donkeys, chimps, lion cubs, elephants, giraffes, leopards, warthogs and penguins at the annual ZooBoo event.
    “The animals are very excited by real pumpkin,” says spokeswoman Jane Ballentine.
    Zoos have to ensure that any food for animals is free of pesticides and herbicides, says National Zoo’s Devin Murphy. So they accept pumpkins only from approved sources. Not even the pumpkins used for decorations can be fed to the animals.