How to Harvest Your Pumpkins (Store-bought or Home-grown!)

Whether you succumb to the adorable grocery store display or your own green thumb, it’s that time of year for putting those pretty mantle centerpiece pumpkins to good, edible use!

This is our first year to grow pumpkins, and we totally did it on accident.

One day last spring my daughter and I were learning about seeds and planting and simply as an object lesson, we “planted” a few old pumpkin seeds (that I had baked last, last fall and were leftovers from a trail mix!) in our back flower bed. During the summer, those seeds actually grew up right alongside our tomato plants. Little did we know they were pumpkins!! Hubby and I knew they looked weird, but agreed that they didn’t look like weeds. Out of pure curiosity we let them grow, then later moved them to a free spot in our garden. Eventually we realized what had happened, and babied those little pumpkin plants along until we had five baby pumpkins just turning orange!

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Throughout the fall, we’ve had at least five more. It’s been a total blast learning about how to grow and harvest these things!

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It was totally exciting, both for us and our daughter, to watch those little tiny seeds grow into huge, autumn-colored beasts of pumpkins. This was our very last pumkin this fall. Our last two on the vine unfortunately died with the frost, but we’re okay with that. Our teeny little seeds did us good! 😀

 

Now, of course, the best part is to turn those little beauties into something we can eat!  Sweet Potato Pumpkin Pie is my personal favorite, but Hubby loves my pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.

 

I thought I’d break down how I gut, cut, bake, and puree pumpkins. Last year, when I bought my baking pumpkins from the store, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing. After some research then, and a LOT of practice this fall, I’d love to share what I do!

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I am using a medium sized baking pumpkin, cut from the vine (and patiently waiting for this moment) a few weeks ago.

Before you prep the pumpkin, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Using a large veggie knife, cut the stem and very top part of your pumpkin off and discard. Cut straight down the center of the pumpkin and separate it into two parts.

From here, I found it easiest to scoop out the pumpkin guts.  The fun part, right? I always use a regular metal serving spoon. With these baking pumpkins, I found that a large metal spoon is too clunky and a plastic one does no good. I scrape all the seeds and insides to one small area of the pumpkin, and then remove with the spoon. It helps to get rid of all those little stringies at once instead of having to go back over the flesh again and again.

Gut both sides of the pumpkin. Discard the insides, unless you intend to save those seeds for planting again or baking up!

From here, I cut each half into sixths, making twelve equal-ish pieces. I learned the hard way that unless you chop your pumpkin into smaller portions, it takes FOREVER to bake. (Like, hourS plural.)

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Set your pieces over a greased baking sheet (a little brushed olive oil will do), or a Silicone baking mat. Press a fork deeply into each piece three times. You’ll want lots of holes for air to escape (kind of like if you’re baking potatoes in the microwave).

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Finally, bake those pieces for about 50 minutes. *Baking time may vary based on the size of your pumpkin and your oven.*

They’ll start to smell wonderful at about thirty-five minutes! Remove from the oven and allow at least twenty minutes of cool time.

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After they pieces have cooled, using another metal serving spoon to scrape away all the flesh from the skin of the pumpkin pieces. I try to save as much flesh as possible! Discard all the skin and put all the pumpkin scrapings into a food processor or high-powered blender with one Tablespoon of water. *I actually had to do my pureeing in three rounds, since I have a smaller food processor. I just did four portions at a time, which yielded 2 cups at a time. *

Puree on high until you have a thick, creamy, (and orange!) consistency.

Make sure you measure your puree at this point. I usually separate my puree into large Ziplock bags with two cups of puree in each. This makes it SO much easier when it comes to baking on a whim! I love to freeze my puree right away, so it’ll stay fresh until I need it.

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There it is…right beside the zucchini, green beans and…chocolate chips.

 

Presto! You have perfect, homemade, pumpkin puree to use at any point during the holiday season. It thaws easily in warm water or even in the microwave for about one minute. Soups, breads, pies, even baby food are perfect uses for this delicious fall harvest.

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I am seriously thinking that some of this puree will be going directly into my mixer instead of the freezer this afternoon…chocolate chip pumpkin bread, anyone?

 

What are your favorite ways to incorporate pumpkin into your Holiday traditions?

 

 

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