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Finding the Perfect Pumpkin

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An orange and white pumpkin decorate the author’s steps in East Montpelier. Photo by Carla Occaso.
What is not to love about a pumpkin? They are beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. But how do you find the perfect one? If I don’t grow one in a given year, I have to buy one. But first I check them out at the various farm stands and stores before I swoop in and make the final choice. 

This year I went to Morse Farm and Maple Sugarworks in East Montpelier. I had been to Bragg Farm for another reason the previous week, and admired their beautiful pumpkin display, but I chose Morse’s because this is where my family has gotten pumpkins since I was a child. Back then they would be on display spilling out of a huge cornucopia set out in front of the farm stand, where you would pick your pumpkin and bring it up to the shop. But this year on the day I went it was somewhat of a difficult process because of the crowd of tourists who just disembarked from tour buses. I knew I wanted a large one because last year my larger dog, Loofah, kept knocking the smaller pumpkins off the steps, causing them to split open prematurely.

So I picked the biggest one I could carry, and hauled it on my shoulder through the crowd of tourists to wait in line for the cashier. She was told she would have to take it to the back to weigh it. It turned out to weigh 40 pounds and would have cost $27.60, which was a little more than I wanted to spend, and heavier than I wanted to carry. So I went back out and chose one that felt about 10 pounds lighter, and again waited in line for the purchase. This one was closer to 20 pounds and cost around $13.00. This pumpkin was exactly what I wanted to decorate my steps and give me that cheerful fall feeling I get when I see pumpkins and gourds.

I thought about getting my pumpkin at either a supermarket or box store since I was already there and had a cart, but at one place they were from Pennsylvania, and at another they were from South Carolina. Both are fine states, but I wanted a pumpkin grown as close to my house as possible.

I also love to cook and eat pumpkin. Usually I do this for the Thanksgiving holiday, and buy a pie pumpkin very close to that date. I make the pie using Ginny Callan’s recipe from the “Horn of the Moon Cookbook,” which contains recipes she created for the Horn of the Moon Cafe she owned on Langdon Street in Montpelier from 1979 to 1990. Ginny’s recipe calls for using real pumpkins — not canned puree — and heavy whipping cream. Additionally, the recipe provides instructions for roasting the pumpkin seeds.

Several holidays celebrate the pumpkin, and not just Halloween.

Holidays Featuring the Pumpkin

Haitian Independence Day (Jan. 1): Haitians celebrate the day they declared independence from French colonial rule on Jan. 1, 1804 by eating Haitian beef and pumpkin soup (soup joumou), according to Smithsonianmag.com. This soup calls for beef, noodles, potatoes, a Haitian pumpkin or squash, carrots, cabbage, and herbs and spices. It is also known as “freedom soup.”

Sukkot (Friday, Sept. 29 to Friday, Oct. 6): The Jewish holiday of Sukkot features stuffed pumpkins and pumpkin stews on the table, according to kveller.com. There is also a book called “The Best Sukkot Pumpkin Ever,” by Laya Steinberg, published in 2017.

Halloween (Oct. 31): The holiday with Celtic origins we now call Halloween features pumpkins as decorations, and carved as jack-o’-lanterns to be lit with candles inside on Halloween night. 

Thanksgiving (Nov. 23): Pumpkin pie is a tradition on the U.S. Thanksgiving dinner table. 

Where to Get Pumpkins in Central Vermont

Bragg Farm: 1005 Vermont Route 14 North, East Montpelier, braggfarm.com

Burtt’s Orchard: 283A Cabot Plains Road, Cabot, burttsappleorchard.com

Ellie’s Farm Market: 952 Darling Road, Northfield, 802-485-7968

Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks: 1168 County Road, East Montpelier, morsefarm.com

Peck Family Farm: 750 Sibley Road, East Montpelier, peckfarmorchard.com

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