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Pumpkin parade – celebrating a fall favorite

By: Gloria Young Home & Garden
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Pumpkins — they’re the symbol of fall. The bright orange orbs delight children at Halloween and make delicious pies for Thanksgiving. But their versatility goes way beyond that. Here are 12 fun ways to celebrate pumpkins great and small. 1. Make it sweet: While some cooks say canned pumpkin is best for baking, Kathryn Santiago, owner of Creative Urges in Downtown Auburn, prefers fresh pumpkin. “Process it like squash,” she said. “Take out the seeds and cut the pumpkin pieces into strips. You can bake them or boil them. Then scoop out the meat and use it for pies, cakes or pumpkin breads.” 2. Make it savory: Foothill Farmers Market General Manager Carol Arnold suggests stuffing them. One of her favorite combinations is from an NPR recipe — bread, crisp bacon, garlic, cheese and Swiss chard. Then add cream or broth. “You just mix it,” she said. “You’ll need a three-pound pumpkin.” Then bake it for 90 minutes at 350 degrees. 3. Don’t forget the seeds: Scoop them out and rinse off the strings. Arnold’s recipe calls for simmering the seeds in water for about 10 minutes. You’ll need two cups of water for every half cup of seeds. Add a half teaspoon of salt for every cup of water. After you’ve removed them from the heat, spread about a teaspoon of olive oil over the bottom of a roasting pan. Spread the seeds out over the roasting pan, all in one layer. Then bake them at 400 degrees on the top rack until they begin to brown — about 10 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool all the way down before eating. If the seeds are really fresh, they’ll cook faster, Arnold said. 4. Decorate it: Santiago likes to draw designs on pumpkins. Magic markers or paint will work equally well. She cautions to use gentle pressure so you don’t break the skin. That way, the pumpkin will last longer and remain usable for cooking later. For Halloween, add ornamental spiders, snakes or little spooky items that you can stick to or poke into the pumpkin. 5. Carve it — or drill it: Use a portable drill to make tiny holes. “It’s beautiful,” Arnold said. “We do them evenly spaced all over the pumpkin. Then put in a candle. It lasts for a few days until the pumpkin starts to soften. They’re so pretty we keep them for three or four days.” 6. Create a centerpiece: Use a large pumpkin with several smaller ones, a grouping of mini-pumpkins or any combination. They work well almost anywhere in the house. For added flair, incorporate garland or sunflowers, Santiago said. 7. Make a vase: Pumpkins are great containers for fall flowers. “You can make beautiful arrangements and use the pumpkin as a vase,” said Patti Foust, owner of Flower Farm Inn and Nursery in Loomis. “Cut out the top and scoop it out.” Be careful to leave the sides thick enough to hold the water. They’ll last three or four days. It works with small or large pumpkins. “The small ones make very cute tiny vases,” Foust said. 8. Create place cards: Choose the smallest of the mini-pumpkins and get creative with your penmanship. Set one beside each place setting at the table,?Foust said. 9. Make a unique soup tureen: Foust suggests using Jarrrahdale pumpkins because of their sage green color. “The flesh is a real bright dark orange,” she said. “I save them until Thanksgiving. Then I open the top carefully, cutting it evenly to make a lid. Scoop out as much pumpkin as you can, but leave it a little thick. Make a soup and then return it to the shell. It’s beautiful with the sage green and bright pumpkin inside.” 10. Use it as a moisturizer: It’s a good use for leftover pumpkin, Foust says. Get about 10 almonds, put them in a food processor and grind them up real fine. To that, add one cup of cooked pumpkin, a quarter cup of honey and one/eighth teaspoon of olive oil. Blend the ingredients until they are well combined. “Put a thin film on your face and leave it for 10 minutes,” she said. “Before you wash it off, rub it into your face and the almonds are an exfoliant. It leaves your face very soft and hydrated. It feels great.” 11. Compete: Start planning now to grow a giant pumpkin for next year’s Auburn Community Festival weigh-off. Be ready to give the project plenty of TLC. “To get a big pumpkin, you can’t really let one day of the summer — or more than a couple of days — go by without attention to the plants,” Auburn resident Randy Warren said in an earlier interview. Warren has submitted entries in the contest since 1997 and set a festival record with a 1,149-pounder in 2009. Experts, like Keith Goodrich, whose 1,285.5-pound pumpkin set a record for the largest ever grown in Placer County at last year’s Community Festival, says soil preparation is the most important step. It’s vital to determine what amendments should be added and at what rates, he said in an earlier interview. 12. Save some for Fido: Pumpkins are good for dogs, Foust said. Her canine treats call for one-half cup of cooked pumpkin, half cup of creamy peanut butter, two and a half cups of whole wheat flour and two eggs. Put the ingredients into a bowl and whisk them until they form a dough. Add water as needed to make the dough pliable. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Flour the surface and roll out the dough to one-half-inch thick. Using cookie cutters, cut the dough into the desired shapes and bake them for 30 to 45 minutes. “You want to make sure they’re hard all the way through,” Foust said. Still have leftover pumpkin? Compost it or give it to livestock. “Pigs love pumpkin,” Foust said.