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5 things to know about: Pumpkins


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Pumpkins have already been a local headline-grabber across the globe, thanks to a local account of pumpkins stolen from Eastern New Mexico University’s Childhood Development Center.

The headline at The Guardian read, “New Mexico pilferers plunder Portales preschool pumpkin patch.”

Here are a few facts about the fall vegetable, with more alliteration likely.

Pumpkin season is market-driven: In a not-so-bright moment on “The Simpsons,” Homer reveals a master plan to invest in pumpkins, because “they’ve been going up the whole month of October,” and cash in right around January.

Margie Plummer of Portales laughs at the reference, but the vegetable has a short window for sales.

“We plant pumpkins the first of July, and that makes them ready the first of October,” Plummer said. “They might as well be cow feed (after Halloween), because nobody wants them after that.”

If you’re growing your own pumpkins for cooking, Plummer said, you can start planting them around May with your other vegetables for an August harvest.

In pumpkin picking, priorities prevail: If you’re looking for a Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin, you’re going to want to find a large pumpkin with as few blemishes as possible for your canvas, and the stem still attached — that’s a clue the pumpkins haven’t been handled much.

For food, you want to do the opposite, because decorating pumpkins (re: large ones) generally are more stringy inside.

“ If you’re using them to cook, there is a variety called pie pumpkins,” Plummer said. “But we have a variety that’s called a Cinderella that are probably better for cooking.”

When picking a pumpkin for food, outside blemishes don’t matter much, unless it clearly shows damage.

Carving the pumpkin: Sheryl Borden, host of KENW’s “Creative Living,” said a variety of tools can work for your pumpkin design, as long as you plan out your design.

“Years ago, I had a guest on the show from Pumpkin Limited in Colorado,” Borden said. “She brought a booklet and some little instruments, a baby saw and a pick. I use them every year ... and that was 20 years ago.”

Woodworkers would tell you to measure twice and cut once. With pumpkins, Borden said it’s smart to use an X-Acto Knife or a small ice pick and poke the design out first, then use a serrated blade and cut slowly.

Pumpkin on your plate: “My favorite recipe is a pumpkin roll,” Borden said. “It’s so pretty and it’s easy to make.”

The basic recipe, Borden said, calls for a thin layer of pumpkin cake to be baked in a jelly roll pan, about half an inch thick. Once the cake is cooled, coat it in a filling of cream cheese, powdered sugar and spices, roll it up and slice it.

Pumpkin seeds make a good snack, and Borden said you can experiment with pumpkin as a smoothie ingredient. Mandrain oranges work well with pumpkin, she said, and she prefers additional ice for a frothy drink.

Saying goodbye: A pumpkin can last longer if you just paint it, Borden said, because you aren’t cutting out cavities.

But all pumpkins must say goodbye. You can throw the rind in the Dumpster, but it can also be chopped up with yard trimmings for a compost. The skin can even be used as food, either for a garnish or as dehydrated chips.

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