Complete Rating of Edible Pumpkins and How to Eat Them
Pumpkin season has arrived again, my friends. Littering the house with fancy gourds has never been my style, but my eyes sparkle wildly when edibles start popping up at the grocery store. I wish I could say that all pumpkins are beautiful and deserve love, the truth is that some are much tastier than others. Here is an unbiased ranking of the best deals of the season.
Dead Last: Spaghetti with Zucchini
Spaghetti squash is absolute trash and I will fight anyone who insists otherwise. No, Barbara, it doesn’t taste like spaghetti, it tastes like grated, pumpkin-scented water chestnut – in a word, betrayal. Give me a bunch of watery, worm-like pumpkin guts with a bolognese on top and see how it ends for you.
Truly the worst of worlds, pumpkin spaghetti is too watery to stuff, too soft to make a delicious soup, and too stringy to be cubed and fried; The thought of the pumpkin pie spaghetti filling makes you die. Literally the only recipe that piqued my interest is the recipe from The Kitchn , and that’s only because I’m generally preoccupied with carbonara paste. Sure, pumpkin spaghetti is edible if smothered with lard, cream and cheese, but what isn’t? Demand more; ban spaghetti squash.
Next-To-Dead-Last: Sugar Gourds
Cooking pumpkin pie is so overrated that it hurts me to even mention it. First of all, it’s best to make a sweet potato pie . Secondly, sugar gourds are a huge headache to deal with and they don’t even taste that good , as evidenced by the fact that even canned gourds are not usually made from regular gourds . In fact, many growers use non-pumpkin varieties C. maxima and C. pepo precisely because “these pumpkin varieties can be less fibrous and sweeter and more colorful than pumpkin.” (My emphasis.)
Incredibly, using sugarless gourd without pie is even worse. Their aforementioned stringiness does not improve upon roasting, and their complete lack of flavor makes them a poor choice for casseroles. The whole stuffed pumpkin looks amazing, but you’ll have to fill it with something really tasty to compensate for the flavor of the pumpkin itself. I think you could make pumpkin soup from scratch, but honestly, why would you need it? If the fall season seems incomplete without chopping up a few round orange pumpkins, try carving pumpkins. At least they know their place.
Also-Ran: Acorn Zucchini
It is rare to see zucchini fried, baked or made from acorns in the form of a soup – a classic dish is divided in half, stuffed with something tasty and baked until soft. It might be because half of one is the perfect size for a first course, but I think it’s actually because the flavorful filling hides the fact that the acorn squash is pretty darn mediocre.
In keeping with the village tradition of Vermont, I grew up eating chopped and fried courgette acorns with maple syrup, salt, and plenty of oil. I liked it then, but it had more to do with the maple syrup and butter than the pumpkin itself. I remember excitedly scraping off a toasted surface and pushing soft, unflavored entrails around my plate. At best, acorn squash is like a disappointing pear: too soft, slightly grainy, with about one-third of the flavor you were promised. Sure, it’s better than sugar squash or spaghetti squash, but it’s a very low bar to be peeled. We can do better.
Second place: nutmeg and / or nutmeg.
Butternut squash is very sweet, with firm orange flesh that retains its shape when roasted. Plus, it’s ubiquitous and relatively easy to prepare, making it a favorite pumpkin if it ever existed. The only downside is the tough skin that needs to be removed, and when it has formed, the zucchini becomes a slippery nightmare that needs to be cut open. (Butternut’s little cousin, the outrageously adorable honey-nut pumpkin, is almost identical in taste and texture, but isn’t that hard to deal with.)
My favorite is the fried zucchini, and for that reason alone, I have to give the walnut its due. It caramelizes easily without turning into gruel, so high temperatures – at least 400ºF – are your friend. If you can manage to split it in half without clogging yourself with fat, it will do just fine with butter, salt and maybe a little brown sugar, although I personally like to fry it in large chunks, aggressively seasoned with olive oil, salt and whole fennel. seeds and flakes of red pepper. From there, you can eat it as it is or puree if with broth, stewed aromas and a little cream or butter for the soup. Its firm flesh also works well for lasagna and flaky casseroles. I’ve never roasted butternut squash specifically for the filling of a pie, but I’m not above that.
First Prize Winners: Kabocha and Hubbard Squash
These two varieties of zucchini are so similar that I am combining them into one, and in terms of pure taste, they cannot be surpassed. Kabocha and Hubbard’s pumpkin are very sweet, with edible skins, and when cooked take on a soft, almost fluffy consistency. This texture, while adorable, actually throws them into second place; I prefer zucchini, which retains its shape when cut into cubes and sautéed.
However, don’t let that discourage you from frying, because if you do everything right, they are almost invincible. The classic cooking method “split it in half, fry with oil and salt and fry for an hour” works great here, but for small cubes, I recommend frying in a skillet in the fat of your choice until tender, and frying briefly if desired. Straight out of the skillet, the fried kabocha (or Hubbard zucchini) is soft and fluffy on the inside, with a pleasantly crispy tender skin, but if you let it cool, the texture will be completely fluffy. In fact, this is probably my favorite way of eating these pumpkin varieties: fried, fully chilled and added to a hearty cereal-based salad with a tangy balsamic vinaigrette and lots of fresh herbs. In second place are deep-fried tempura .
Fried zucchini, however, is old news. What sets them apart is that they succeed – no, they excel – where all other pumpkins fail: as a filling for quiches. So far, I’ve argued that pie filling is a waste of time, and here’s the only exception. These pumpkins are rich in flavor and frankly velvety in texture; if you’re going to make a pie filling from scratch, use a kabocha or Hubbard’s squash .
Miss Seasonal Gourd 2017: Pumpkin Delicata Squash
I fully admit my bias, but as a fried squash enthusiast, there has never been another candidate for first place. Sweet, tender, easy to cut, with an edible skin and enough structural integrity to survive in a hot oven, the delicacy is simply the perfect pumpkin.
If you want to toast the tender pumpkin and must, it’s very simple to prepare it: just scoop out the seeds, cut into the shape you want (I like the friendly little crescent moons the most) and season to your liking. The skin is actually the best part, so don’t you dare take it off. Like kabocha, any leftovers acquire a pleasant thick, tender texture when cooled, making them an excellent addition to salads.
Roasting is what the delicate zucchini really shines with, but don’t count other preparations. Its strong flavor makes a delicious soup – much better than walnut, in all honesty – and when seeded and thinly sliced makes a truly excellent gratin base . If you want to show off a little, stuff the delicacy with whatever you want for a hearty, completely self-contained vegetarian dish that looks as good as it tastes. Truly, this pumpkin is nothing but the filling for the pie, but that is why God gave us sweet potatoes.