If autumn happens without pumpkin flavor, is it even autumn? Though pumpkin-flavored specials permeate our nation’s idea of the holiday season, many farmers and bakers will tell you that of all the winter squash varieties, pumpkins are among the least flavorful. So, are pumpkins really responsible for the symbolic autumnal flavor?
The “pumpkin flavor” ubiquitous in mainstream food culture is actually the flavor of the spices added to pumpkin pie — cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc. The flavor of the pumpkin itself is rather buried and removed from the flavorings of so many of these mainstream fall foods.
And what about the pumpkins that go into pumpkin dishes? The internet is awash with articles that speculate whether canned pumpkin is squash or pumpkins, but there is no clear answer, as pumpkin is a kind of squash. It is certain that canned pumpkin is not the same as field pumpkins that are used for Jack-o-lanterns and other autumnal decorations; he squash most commonly used for canned pumpkin, called “Dickinson pumpkin,” is more closely related to butternut squash.
Looking to make “pumpkin” desserts using winter squash from area farmers tailgate markets, but not sure how to choose? Common varieties such as butternut, acorn, and delicata are all great options. North Carolina candy roaster squash has been heralded as the best squash for pie making. They’re celebrated as the sweetest and most flavorful of the squashes, but that’s far from unanimous — ask your farmers what their favorite squashes are for pies and other desserts.
Some markets around the region have begun to close, while others are getting ready to switch locations or hours for the holiday season. To find out about markets near you, visit Farmers Market Closings and Holiday Dates.
Area farmers tailgate markets take place throughout the region. As always, you can find information about farms, tailgate markets, and farm stands, including locations and hours, by visiting ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at appalachiangrown.org.
Prepared by Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project.