Carl White's Life in the Carolinas

The Tastes of Autumn

by Suzelle Sinclair

suzelle.sinclair@earthlink.net

 

“I can smell autumn dancing in the breeze. The sweet chill of pumpkin, and crisp sunburnt leaves.”

~Ann Drake

PAINTING BY SUZELLE SINCLAIR

The chill in the air playfully pressed against my coffee cup, creating patterns with the rising steam. Curled up on my patio lounge chair, wrapped in my favorite sweater, I enjoyed watching Gracie run and jump in the newly fallen leaves. Autumn has indeed arrived, bringing with it the joys of cozy sweaters, savory soups, and for some, the delight of pumpkin spice.

There is a serious debate over pumpkin spice. It seems folks either love it or hate it. There is no debate, however, that pumpkin is the signature flavor of autumn. However, there is far more diversity to this delicious fruit than just pumpkin spice. Yes, pumpkin is technically classified as a fruit. That certainly does not mean it must be served sweet. Pumpkin also plays a starring role in velvety soups and savory pasta dishes.

With sunny skies and a slight chill in the air, it was the perfect day to journey to the local pumpkin patch. Pumpkin patches are located widely across the Carolinas. It is a native plant, and there are nearly 4000 acres of pumpkins grown each year in North Carolina alone. I gave a call to Gracie, “come on girl, we’re going on a pumpkin hunt.” Her ears perked and tail wagged as she came running.

As I drove near the farm, we saw a sea of orange. There was a variety of shades from marigold to amber, stretching as far as the eye could see. Gracie gave a cheerful bark as she recognized the farm where we had recently visited a corn maze, which you may remember from my column From Maize to Maze. When we reached the farm, Gracie immediately spotted Mr. Jones, the owner of the farm, and ran to greet him. “Well if it isn’t corn dog,” he exclaimed. “Hi Suz, you and Gracie here to pick out a pumpkin?” I assured him that was indeed our plan.

As I gazed out across the sea of orange, two thoughts came to mind. First, how to decide which one to pick and second, that’s a lot of pumpkin pies. I asked, “Mr. Jones, do you sell all these pumpkins to folks looking to carve jack-o-lanterns or make pumpkin pies?” He told me that while he sells a large number of pumpkins to local folks, the majority are sold commercially. He picked up a broken piece of pumpkin and handed it to Gracie. “You like that girl?” he asked. He explained that one of the commercial uses for pumpkin is in high quality dog food. It seems that pumpkins are as good for dogs as they are for people. They are filled with nutrients including vitamins A, B1, B6 and C, copper, folate, calcium, potassium, magnesium and fiber. They support heart health and digestion. “Of course those are the benefits of real pumpkins, not those artificial flavors,” he added.

Mr. Jones helped us load our perfect pumpkin into my old truck. As we left the farm, I looked in the rear view mirror at the field of beautiful shades of orange and thought about the marvelous diversity of pumpkins. I considered all the wonderful things I was going to make with just this one pumpkin; roasted pumpkin seeds, roasted pumpkin seasoned with herbs and cayenne pepper, pumpkin jam spread on hot biscuits, pumpkin pies and of course my famous pumpkin curry soup. I plan to even make some pumpkin dog biscuits. As I pondered how we often think of pumpkins only in relation to pumpkin spice, I thought about how often we also look at people one dimensionally. We sometimes don’t realize all the wonderful things that are beneath the surface of our first impression.

—————————————————————————————-

 

Suzelle’s Pumpkin Curry Soup

3 cups pumpkin puree                             2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced                                2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed

1 teaspoon ginger, minced                      1 tablespoon yellow curry powder

3 cups vegetable stock                            1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk

salt and ground black pepper, to taste

 

•     Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for about 4 minutes until soft and translucent. Add garlic and ginger and cook for about 1 minute.

•     Stir in curry powder, keep stirring for about 15 seconds.

•     Stir in vegetable stock, coconut milk, and pumpkin and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, covered. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

 

Gracie’s Favorite Pumpkin Dog Biscuits

1/2 cup of  pumpkin puree                      2 eggs

1.2 teaspoon of salt                                 2 tablespoons of milk

2 1/2 cups of flour                                   water

 

•               Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

•               Blend eggs and pumpkin together; add salt, milk, and flour.

•               Add water as needed to make the dough somewhat workable.

•               Roll to 1/2-inch thick.

•               Cut into shapes.

•               Place 1″ apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

•               Bake for 20 minutes on one side, then turn over and bake another 20 minutes.

CHARLOTTE WEATHER