Halloween month may not yet be upon us, but the Weston maples are catching fire and Autumn’s reign is spreading.
The Land’s Sake Farmers will tell you, correctly, that the hearty Delicata and Acorn squashes they’ve grown and harvested for us are different varieties of Winter Squash, but I’m just not ready for the W-word. So, until December, I’ll take a farm stander’s liberty and refer to these autumnal heralds as Fall Squash. (Incidentally, have you tried our Gene Simmons [Carmen] sweet peppers or Hot Rod [Striped Roman] paste tomatoes?)
Like many New Englanders, my favorite fall squash – pumpkins – rush onto my radar with the first turned leaf. I’m so excited that the farm stand is now boasting gorgeous Sugar Pie Pumpkins grown by Faith and Brian Donahue, Land’s Sake founder and pioneer. This has happily fueled my stereotypical New Englander obsession with just about all things pumpkin – roasted pumpkin, pumpkin soup, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin ale, carving jack-o-lantern pumpkins – I could go on. But in its pure form, when not co-mingled with loads of butter, sugar, white flour, heavy cream, or ale, pumpkins and other fall squash are nutritional powerhouses.
Pumpkins boast a nutrition profile similar to its squash peers such as acorn, delicata, butternut, kabocha, and spaghetti squash. Like many other red, orange, and deep-yellow hued vegetables such as carrots, red peppers, and sweet potatoes, fall squash are high in carotenoids. This group of nutrients, in the forms of beta-carotene and lycopene, may be protective against some types of cancer, and lutein may protect eye health.
In addition to carotenoids, fall squash are also a great source of potassium (see collards blog below for more information), magnesium, thiamin, and Vitamin A. Vitamin A is the nutrient that famously is associated with improved night vision as well as fighting infections, maintaining healthy skin and bones, and regulating cell growth and division. Fall squash are also a great source of gut-healthy fiber – about 5 grams per ½ cup cooked squash!
The nutrient-color association we see with orange, yellow, and red-hued produce is not unique; many vegetable and fruit colors are associated with similar groups of nutrients, so as I may have expressed in our farm stand conversations, ‘eating the rainbow’ of veg and fruit will help ensure you get everything you need – without remembering the technical terms, and without buying expensive supplements.
Though I may rattle of nutrition tidbits and [what I consider to be] “fun food facts” around the stand, my passion for the nitty-gritty of human nutrition and cellular processes, like my pending Master’s degree, is bound with eating good food. With that, it behooves me to share the following Creamy Sugar Pie Pumpkin Soup.
I admittedly found the recipe I developed to be fairly time-consuming, so making a large batch with plenty of leftovers to share is a great activity for a cozy home-bound Autumn afternoon. And as always, I sort of ‘winged it’ in the kitchen, and I encourage you to similarly experiment and adjust ingredient amounts as desired to fit your needs and taste – I can almost guarantee it will come out tasty when you start with great ingredients like Brian and Faith’s Sugar Pie Pumpkins ($2.50/lb at the stand, with the smallest weighing as little as one pound).
Creamy Vegan Sugar Pumpkin Soup
- 3 medium sized Brian & Faith’s Sugar Pie Pumpkins
- A few tablespoons of olive or other vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 each medium Land’s Sake Pontiac and Red Bull onions
- 2 Carlson Orchards apples (pick your favorite varieties from the stand, we currently have Macs, Macouns, Cortlands, Gala, and Honeycrisp!)
- 1-2 Carmen Peppers
- Land’s Sake parsley
- Any other vegetables you would enjoy to make a pseudo-vegetable stock
- Shan’s Vegetable Curry Spice Mix, or any other blend of spices you would enjoy in this soup
- ~1/2 can coconut cream or coconut milk (keep in mind that lighter coconut milk will result in a thinner soup, which is just fine!)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Blender (I use a Ninja, but any blender or processor should work)
- Pan (by now you know I love my American Made cast iron!)
- Cookie sheet or baking dish (to roast pumpkins in)
- Oven (pre-heated to 325)
- Optional: Microwave (one of my culinary best friends)
1. Preheat oven to 325.
2. Halve pumpkins; to soften them up a bit for easier cutting, I put each pumpkin in the microwave for 1-2 minutes – take care not to microwave it to the point of really cooking! Next, I snap or cut off the stem to make it easier to halve. Finally, I cut the pumpkin down the middle and scoop out the seeds. If desired, roast the seeds; though nutritionally helpful and not wasteful, I find it maddening every time! Please comment below with easy pumpkin seed tricks.
3. Lightly oil cookie sheet or baking pan as well as the inside of the pumpkins; turn pumpkins halves upside-down.
4. Depending on the size and number of pumpkins, roast for 45+ minutes as necessary until the pumpkin flesh is quite soft.
5. Scoop pumpkin flesh out of the skin and into a bowl to cool (it may be very hot) while preparing the other ingredients.
6. Heat oil in a pan, using a lower temperature if using olive oil.
7. Add onions and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent (some chefs have the patience and culinary wisdom to cook just before the point of caramelizing, but I do not).
8. Add apples, peppers, parsley, and any other vegetables and simmer until apples are mushy.
9. Add spice mix and just enough water create a very thick stock.
9. Combine vegetable/spice mixture with pumpkin flesh in your blender or processor; you may need to do so in batches. Add coconut milk as needed to achieve your desired consistency and coconut flavor.
10. Blend until very smooth – there should be no chunks left in the mixture (unless you desire it – it’s your soup!).
11. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and if it has cooled significantly, reheat in a pan.
12. Serve in a bowl or if you’re feeling very fancy, a hollowed out roasted acorn squash! Enjoy and be prepared to impress yourself and others.
Enjoy, Be Well, and Hope To See You Soon,
Emily Elizabeth, RDN