Food News

Pity for the Poor Pumpkin? Not Necessary.

It's the Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas season, which means my inbox has lately been flooded with press releases for various pumpkin-flavored delicacies, all available for a few weeks only.

I believe in eating seasonally, but all the time-limited offers had me feeling sorry for pumpkin growers. If hazelnut lattes, strawberry ice cream and banana pancakes are available year-round, why couldn't Starbucks, Pinkberry and IHOP keep pumpkin in their permanent line-ups?

Turns out my sympathies were misplaced. I called Tim Assiter of Punkin Ranch in Floydada, Texas, a Panhandle town that's christened itself the nation's Pumpkin Capital.

Assiter hasn't spent late nights crafting recipes for pumpkin pastas or scheming to get restaurants to experiment with pumpkin fries. Far from it: He's wary of eaters developing a year-round craving for pumpkins.

If demand for pumpkins grew, Assiter explained, "You'd see it grown in Mexico, like tomatoes."

According to Assiter, pumpkins are hardy fruits. Some varieties can be "kept for a couple years," so long as the peel's not punctured. But Assister maintains growers benefit from pumpkin's seasonal associations. He'd rather pumpkins get a short star turn than have to wage daily campaigns for eaters' attentions.

Plus, he adds, it's a pretty long season.

"We start in September and go through Christmas with the pumpkin pies," he says. "That's a third of the year. So I guess I'd argue with you about that."

But Assiter admits his family's trying to widen its pumpkin consumption window.

"We go out to the field and get immature pumpkins to put in beef stew," Assiter says. "We like it better than potatoes. But it will not keep: If you lay it on your table, it will go down."

This year, Assiter says, he's going to try freezing the young pumpkin flesh in Ziploc bags.

"We'll see how it does," he says.

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Hanna Raskin
Contact: Hanna Raskin

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