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The Complete Pumpkin

How to plant, carve, scare and eat

     Pumpkin time is upon us. I hope you plan to have a ghoulish pumpkin on your front porch with a flickering candle inside. The custom comes from a phenomenon of a strange light, called will-o’-the-wisp or jack-o’-lantern, that flickers over peat bogs. It’s also tied to the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, a drunkard who bargains with Satan and is doomed to roam the Earth with only a hollowed turnip to light his way.
      Medium-size pumpkins about 12 to 14 inches in diameter make good jack-o’-lanterns. Try to find a pumpkin with a strong stem, but don’t carry it that way as it can detach easily.
     Use a strong sharp knife to cut the top off. Scoop the seeds out with a large metal spoon. For a healthy snack, wash them in a colander, drizzle olive oil or butter and sprinkle Old Bay seasoning over them, then roast in the oven at 350 degrees until lightly brown and crunchy. Store in an airtight jar.
      The pulp can be scooped out to bake on a glass pie plate. Leave enough pulp inside the skin so the pumpkin keeps its shape. Bake the pulp at 350 degrees until soft. After baking, put it into a food processor and pulse until pureed. Store it in freezer bags in one-cup quantities and freeze it. It’s great for pies, soups or pumpkin bread.
      Use a candle or a tea light with a built-in timer for illuminating your pumpkin. If you have chickens and don’t want to keep the seeds for yourself, give them to your chickens; they will relish them. Also, when Halloween is over, give them what’s left of your jack-o’-lantern.
     If you want to grow your own pumpkins, sow the seeds next spring after all danger of frost is past, about May 15. Plant the seeds one inch deep. They need full sun, a fertile soil and lots of space and water. To get an early jump, start them indoors about April 15 and transplant carefully into the garden as they don’t like their roots disturbed.