I figured I should get this out in the open as soon as possible, for those of you who already aren’t aware…….I have a thing for pumpkins. I am never sad about the end of summer because I know that in a few short weeks, I’ll be shopping for gnarly gourds at farm stands, stocking up on cans of pumpkin puree every time I’m at the store, and bugging whoever is around to come frolic in the country with me so I can purchase pumpkins of all sizes, pick apples, and usually grab some dried corn to hang on the front door. There was even that year when I spent a summer post-college living at home and encouraged my parents to add to their collection of vegetable plantings an “enchanted” pumpkin patch. Needless to say, that is now the section of the yard where my dad burns the casualty branches after a long day of pruning.
My obsession for pumpkins and all things autumnal began way before I started cooking with pumpkins. Seasonal folklore, crunchy leaves underfoot, my family’s annual foliage-filled weekend at the beautiful Stump Sprouts in the Berkshires, and my special affinity for Disney’s old Halloween movies (anyone remember The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t?) are all fond memories of Octobers growing up in Massachusetts. As I got older, I thankfully lived in places where I was still able to embrace the fall and it’s bounty of pumpkins: from Boston to Maine to New Hampshire to France, I sought local vegetable stands and my dorm rooms and apartments, windowsills and front stoops never lacked the warm glow of that familiar orange orb.
One caveat I have regarding this special little fruit (yes, pumpkins are fruit) is emphasis on seasonality. You will never find me cooking with pumpkin, ordering pumpkin dishes in a restaurant, imbibing in my favorite pumpkin brew (Saranac Pumpkin Ale is one of the leading contenders at the moment), or displaying any Cucurbita maxima on my front stoop until the last quarter of September (later, if the weather is not crisp and cool). Though I will adhere to this rule on Eating the Rind and you’ll just have to sit back and wait another week or so for the influx of pumpkins coming your way, I found not only a new pumpkin usage that I want to share, but one I consider appropriate to prepare, serve, and write about before my normal deadline (nothing orange about this dish).
I was highly intrigued when I saw pumpkin vine tips last Saturday at the Cambridgeport farmer’s market. What could be better than learning yet another tasty way to incorporate pumpkins into my diet? After a bit of discussion at the stand and some additional research, it seems that pumpkin vine tips are part of traditional Nepalese cuisine (of which I know nothing about). While the woman at the stand did give me a recipe for reference, she also mentioned that a simple stir fry would work. Taking a cue from Clare Richards’ pumpkin vine tips and pan fried salmon (without the salmon this time), I roughly chopped the greens into one inch pieces, and did a simple saute with vegetable oil, sliced garlic, and a few drops of water, followed by 1-2 tablespoons of soy sauce, the juice of half a lime, and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil at the end. These greens only take a few minutes to cook, and don’t be afraid of the little hairs on the stems. I peeled some of the tougher sections, but realized it was probably not necessary as the stems also cook to a crunchy but tender consistency, nutty and earthy in every bite. Next time, I’d love to add a protein and maybe some coconut milk!