HISTORY: Celebrating fall with pumpkins

Columnist Lindsay Foreman talks about the versatility of pumpkins as the marker of fall

Fall in the Agassiz-Harrison Valley is full of tradition, and competing to grow the largest pumpkin is one of them!

I witnessed this firsthand when I checked out the exhibits in the Agricultural Hall during the Fall Fair and Corn Festival on Sept. 14. The Agassiz-Harrison Museum’s photo and newspaper archives document this community past-time over the past century, including the 78- and 84-pound monsters produced 50 years ago in 1969!

The Pacific Northwest and beyond has developed a pumpkin spice craze, and popular culture marks the beginning of fall with Starbucks’ seasonal release of their Pumpkin Spice Latte. Some like this sensory experience so much, the aroma has been captured in candle form to fill your home or office all year round.

RELATED: Fall comes early with the release of pumpkin spice lattes

Most of us enjoy the seasonal slice or two of pumpkin pie or pumpkin loaf, again usually during the fall between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. But what other ways can we consume this wonderful fruit, which originated in Central America between 9,000 and 10,000 years ago?

Roasting pumpkin seeds and pumpkin carving has often been included as part of the Halloween festivities in my own home. Since turning vegetarian, however, I have realized how versatile pumpkin is!

Pumpkin is a great source of many natural vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and C, potassium, phosphorus, manganese and iron. I love making pumpkin soup, pumpkin pancakes and substituting pumpkin for sugar or applesauce in many of my baking recipes. Some of the Japanese restaurants I have visited even serve pumpkin tempura.

RELATED: Cooking program teaching healthy eating

A review of several of the vintage cook books in the Agassiz-Harrison Museum’s collection identified one of the most unique pumpkin recipes I have ever come across: pumpkin pickles! If you have some extra pumpkin this fall, maybe you can try making pumpkin pickles of your own.

Here is the recipe, courtesy of the British Columbia Women’s Institute Centennial Cook Book, published in 1958:

Clean, peel and cut up about 4 quarts (16 cups) of pumpkin into pieces about 1 inch (2.54 cm) square. Add 1 teaspoon salt and boil in water until barely done. Pour off water. Bring to a boil 1 quart (4 cups) vinegar, 1 quart (4 cups) water, 2 cups sugar, 2 tablespoons mixed spice (tied in a cheese-cloth bag). Now add the drained pumpkin and bring all to a boil. Seal in jars.

Do you have favourite pumpkin recipes you would like to share with the community? We would love to hear them! You can reach us at agassizharrisonmuseum@shawbiz.ca or 604-796-3545.

-Lindsay Foreman is the manager and curator at the Agassiz Harrison Museum


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