August 25, 2010

Sugar Pie Pumpkinhead in Yellowstone Country

Still green!
Lone Mountain is white. Looking northwest, the tips of the Tobaccoroots are white. August 22 snow isn’t a promising harbinger for the sugar pies. In fact, the pumpkin plants have already survived two freezes and numerous hailstorms. However, in spite of winter during summer this growing season, the sugar pie pumpkin (Cucurbito pepo) patch is bursting with green globes with a fresh stand of blossoms each dawn.

Can this heirloom, 110-day crop make it to bright orange? A string of hot days would help. Those of you, who have followed my adventures of growing pumpkins, know my tales have centered around (pun intended) Cinderella, the carriage-shaped red-orange French heirloom variety that reaches 10” – 15” in diameter. After three years of growing this variety, I switched to a smaller heirloom cooking pumpkin in hopes of actually ending in the fall with a wheelbarrow full. The sugar pie crop is 2/3 to the finish line. I’m not holding my breath! The largest blue tarp in our collection lives next to the patch, at the ready, should a freeze be forecast.

Sugar pumpkins, described by the seed packet as “7 inch diameter scrumptious wonders,” have smooth textured bright orange flesh and are great for making flavorful, mouthwatering pies, soups, and breads. If you have never made a pumpkin pie from scratch (not canned pumpkin), you have missed out on one of the most delicious of fall treats. One sugar pie pumpkin is enough for one pie. Cut into de-seeded sections, drizzle with olive oil, and roast to golden brown in the oven until a fork easily passes into the flesh. When cool, plop into a blender, skin and all, whirl until smooth. At this point, follow your favorite pumpkin pie, bread, or soup recipe. The mash can also be frozen for future use.
In the beginning

Pumpkins are low in calories, low in fat and provide a wealth of vitamins even though like most other vegetables, they are 90% water. Start seedlings inside in mid-March. A healthy pumpkin seed will germinate right before your eyes! The tiny plants reach for sunlight. Set in a south facing window, and viola, the seedlings take off like wildfire, sending out tendrils and, eventually, blossoms. Pumpkin seedlings are a great way to end winter. When the blossoms start popping out, the aroma of jasmine fills the room. If you grew pumpkin plants for no other reason than to smell the blossoms (and eat them), it would be a worthy effort!

When I brought home a starving puppy from a reservation trip, I fed him Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup. To this day, Baci does cartwheels in front of a cooking chicken! I have the same reaction to growing, holding, and tasting a pumpkin! Folklore tells us that pumpkins are related to the supernatural. Literature is rife with pumpkin references: Harry Potter loved pumpkin juice at Hogwarts School of Wizardry, Linus, a Charles Schulz character believed in the Great Pumpkin, and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s witch turns a scarecrow with “pumpkinhead” into a man.
Pumpkin patch

For the love of a pumpkin, I call myself a “pumpkinhead!” They aren’t supposed to grow in our climate but I refuse to believe a Montana sugar pie is a fairy tale. To ensure success, our crop was planted ten feet from the back door this year, moved in from the back forty. We are sleeping, eating, and laughing with the pumpkins. Our patch is the sixth family pet. Tell me I’m not crazy!
How could you not be crazy about this?


  1. You're not crazy!! There is something about pumpkins...I think I recall when I was reading the "Little House on the Prairie" series to my children when they were little, that Ma made a mock apple pie using slices of green pumpkin. I've always wanted to try that...perhaps I will. Anyway, thank you for singing the praises of the beautiful pumpkin!

  2. Save some blue corn seed for the 3rd Graders! and they'll save some of your pumpkin seed for next year!