Smashing Pumpkins – The Best Fall Food Has Arrived

While it might be easier to grab a can of pumpkin puree, there’s nothing as good as the real thing. Really. Check out Stephanie's top tips on cooking with pumpkins.

As leaves shift to hues of rust and gold and the air fills with a cool crisp edge, autumn brings with it a beautiful, rather unusual ingredient – pumpkin. Sure they make great jack o’ lanterns for Halloween, and the holidays just aren’t complete until the pumpkin pie hits the table, but there’s so much more to this golden gourd. Let’s start with what kind to get:

1. Ornamental

You definitely don’t want to consume these beauties, but they’re what you want for carving and home decoration. In season here in Ontario in September and October, they’ll be in- store until Halloween. Fun fact – Did you know that while pumpkins boast the nutritional value of a vegetable, they’re technically a fruit (as are tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers and avocados)?!A medium-sized sugar pumpkin (4 lbs.) yields roughly 1½ cups of puree, and one 4-ounce portion is just 38 calories. According to Foodland Ontario, pumpkin is “an excellent source of Vitamin A, thiamine and riboflavin and a good source of Vitamin C.” Check out these names for the best to ornate your doorstep:

Ornamental Pumpkin Varieties:
Knucklehead (orange and bump covered)
Polar bear (large white)
Snowball (small white)
Galeaux D’Eysines (pink with brown warts)
Kekai (orange with squarish green colourization)
Porcelain Doll (squat pink)
Marina De Chioggia (darker green with wrinkles)
Jarrahdale Large (pale green)
Angel Wing
Apple Gourd
Baby Bear
Jack Be Quick


2. Edible

The kind you eat are often referred to as “pie” or “sugar” pumpkins. Even better – they’re super easy to prepare. Just cook the edible varieties as you would squash – bake, steam, roast, and boil. Here are a few ideas to get you started cooking with pumpkin:

Make pumpkin purée from scratch

While it might be easier to grab a can of pumpkin puree, there’s nothing as good as the real thing. Really. Did you know that many canned varieties claiming to be 100 per cent pumpkin are actually a mix of pumpkin and squash? So make your own and add it to soups, chilis, yogurt, smoothies, chia puddings, muffins, loaves, scones, cookies, cheesecakes, pancakes and waffles, and granola bars. Elevate meals with pumpkin compound butter, add a fall touch to hummus, stuff it into lasagna and ravioli, and mix it into curry for added savoury goodness. And a spoonful added to lattes and homemade donuts delivers all sorts of #fallfeels. It’s good for the whole family in fact – babies take to the smooth texture and deep flavour, and it helps aid digestion in cats and dogs.** Once you try it, you’ll wonder how you’ve gone this long without it. **Speak to your vet to see if it’s right for your pet.

Roast the seeds

If you’ve never had pumpkin seeds you absolutely must. Not only do they boast protein, iron, and zinc, they’re delicious both raw and lightly roasted, salted or seasoned with other spices both savoury and sweet (try them dusted with cinnamon sugar!). They can be enjoyed on their own, as a topping for salads, soups and stews, baked into cookies, loaves and granola bars blended into a pesto or hummus, and so much more. Still not convinced? I’ve got three words for you: Pumpkin Seed Brittle.

Stuff it

Did you know that pilgrims stuffed pumpkins, creative a kind of early version of pumpkin pie? It turns out that this clay-coloured beaut is an ultimate container for stuffing – it helps retain moisture and adds extra layer of depth to your tried-and-true recipe. Drool.

Beauty Tip: Adding pumpkin puree to your beauty routine isn’t a crazy idea at all. In fact, the nutrient-rich pulp contains enzymes that gets rid of dead skin cells, so whip up a quick DIY exfoliating mask or body butter, and say helloooo to smoother skin!

Decorative/Ornamental Pumpkins

Okay, now that we’ve got your cooking pumpkin questions taken care of, that leaves, What the heck do you do with your ornamental pumpkin after Halloween? Don’t leave it for the squirrels to ravage. Reuse and recycle your doorstep decor – it’s less waste for you and the environment. It turns out non-edible pumpkins are a wonderful biodegradable vessel. Once you’ve hollowed them out, you can use them as a:

– Fall Planter
– Birdhouse
– Candle Holder
– Festive Serving Bowl
– Incense Burner as made famous by Martha Stewart
– Beer Cooler! Wine Dispenser! 🍷🍇

Done with your gourd for good? Simply compost your pumpkin. In fact, do one better and place cut up pieces (sans seeds) in your garden bed – it adds rich nutrients to the soil, so watch your plants thrive as never before. Bonus: SHM Shopping List – All Things Pumpkin:

Our favourite pumpkin products to shop in-store now:

1. Summerhill’s Own Pumpkin Loaf
2. Styrian Gold Pumpkin Seed Oil and Styrian Gold Pumpkin Seed Protein Powder
3. Summerhill’s Own Pumpkin Seeds Unsalted and Go Raw Sprouted Pumpkin Seed

Stephanie Dickison

Stephanie Dickison

A journalist with over 20 years experience, specializing in restaurants, chefs, food and drink. In addition to daily articles and features, profiling top chefs and interviewing celebs, as editor and feature writer for Toronto Restaurants, her Open/Closed column is a must-read every Thursday morning for the newest openings, and latest news + events. 

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