Monday, November 13, 2017

Pie Pumpkins - 5 Years Later

In 2012, we had a plethora of pumpkins and we were hopeful that we could sell the excess.  So, we felt the timing was right to author a blog post outlining some of the pie pumpkins we grew/grow at the Genuine Faux Farm.  The original post shows up as being visited semi-frequently during the month of November each year.  I wonder why that might be?

Since that time, we have tried to revisit the subject every couple of years.   In 2014, we updated our winter squash page on our website and we may revisit that page again this Winter.  Yet, I look at that page and I am amazed how much things for just this subset of crops have changed for us on the farm.  I do not detect anything incorrect on those pages.  But, our focus on what we are growing has changed somewhat significantly.  As a result, there are a number of cultivars that we no longer grow - yet they show up on our web page and on prior blog posts.  This made me wonder if it would be worthwhile to explore why we've made these changes.

If you want a pumpkin pie recipe (or two), scroll to the bottom of this post!

Alas, We No Longer Grow Thee
It feels like it might make the most sense to refer to some of the varieties we no longer grow first.  In some of these cases, we're pretty certain we will not grow them again.  In others, there is a chance they could return given the right set of circumstances.

One of the underlying reasons for us to cease growing some of these pie pumpkins is simply the need for us to do a little simplifying on our farm.  There is a fine balance between the diversity we desire, the size of our farm, the tool and the energy the farmers have to do the work required.  Then, you have to add in the reality of the need for a little income from the farm and you have to consider dropping some varieties that don't produce enough to earn their keep - even if you like them very much.
Amish Pie
Case in point is the Amish Pie pumpkin.  Let me quote from 2012:
Essentially, pests regularly take out about 75% of our plants each season - assuming all else goes well. 

There is a reason the seed sources for this wonderful pie pumpkin have a hard time being consistent as well.  Add to that the fact that they are unforgiving if you get them in too late (a common problem with our soils and weather) and maybe this is not the right match for our farm.  Even so, if I were to see Amish Pie as a selection in the Seed Savers catalogue again this season, I would still pause and be tempted - before calmly NOT putting them on the order list for our farm.
Galeux d'Eysines
The always intriguing Galeux d'Eysines did not make the cut for our growing season this past year either.  We loved getting some of these 'Bumpkins' every year, but we had to admit to ourselves that we rarely selected it over all of our other pie pumpkins when we wanted to eat one.  Don't get us wrong, it tastes fine.  It just didn't taste as good as the others most years.  Since we are not in the decorative pumpkin business, but we are in the business of growing food, the decision might seem like it was an easy one.  On top of the taste 'thing,' the production numbers of this c.maxima vine crop didn't compete with the others.

Odd little fact for those who like them: Eysines is just northwest of Bordeaux, France.  Galeuse translates roughly to "scabby."  So, this is a scabby squash from Eysines, France.  Now, wasn't that fun?

On the other hand, they are different.  They are oddly attractive and fun to grow (when they do well).  They have moderate storage qualities and probably would taste better if we had a warm place to cure them.  It is also possible that they might just do better in a different soil.  And, we did have people tell us that they liked them for pumpkin/squash soup.
New England Pie
New England Pie did not go in the ground this year because it lost in a two year head to head trial with Winter Luxury.  That's the thing about a fifteen acre farm, you only have so much space.  It is important to find the right balances for your production choices and having two varieties that fill the same niche is not an efficient use of limited resources. 

All About the Ratios
In the end, most of our choices came down to using our experience since our start in 2005 to help us determine a few key ratios.  One such ratio is the overall production value per row foot of all of our crops.

Simply put, we'd like to say that we can average a certain amount of value throughout our cultivated vegetable crops.  That doesn't mean would say no to something that struggles to reach that value.  Instead, it means that we need to use those values to determine another value:

The ratio of reliable value producers versus the less reliable value producing crops and varieties.

In other words, we spent time figuring out how many row feet of pie pumpkins we could afford to expend on cultivars like Amish Pie and Galeaux d'Eysines versus how many we would need of Long Island Cheese and Musquee de Provence to offset the shortcomings of other selections.
Long Island Cheese
In 2012, we mentioned that Long Island Cheese was the most reliable pie pumpkin we had grown "for seven years."  In other words, we started growing them our first year on the farm - and we're still growing them.  They remain reliable from a production standpoint and they give us attractive and tasty fruits.  Part of the reason for this is the fact that they have solid stems (c. moschata) which resist incursions by the vine borer.  They also respond favorably to having flower companions nearby to attract pollinators.  In many ways, they grow like the Waltham Butternut with similar positive characteristics.  Fruit don't store quite as well as butternuts, but they tend to be better than average.

Another reality entered into our pie pumpkin decision making as well.  You can make "pumpkin" pie out of several other squash types.  Types like... oh... Waltham Butternut.  In fact, butternut is usually the squash of choice for the cans of "pumpkin" you can buy at the store.  That means our ratios needed to include our other winter squash as well.  Hey - if we can do anything right - it's making our decisions sound really difficult!  Or maybe it's our justifications that are difficult to follow?  Either way, we hope it makes us sound smart.

Three Pie Pumpkin Cultivars and We're Good To Go
In the end, we have decided to go with three reliable pie pumpkin varieties and focus on Marina di Chioggia and Burgess Buttercup as our two "high risk" cultivars in the Winter Squash category.  It certainly helps that we love the taste of the pie pumpkins that remain.  This is especially true for Musquee de Provence. 
Musquee de Provence
I suppose you want a fun fact for our other French heirloom pie pumpkin?  This one supposedly comes from southern France and was named for its distinctive pumpkin odor.  Yes - it smells good!  The rough translation to Engish is that Musquee means musky.  But, I am not sure that is an entirely accurate description of the fragrance.

Musquee de Provence has also been marketed at Fairy Tale - though I am not entirely certain that the strains are completely interchangeable.  They get to full size with a dark gray/green color and will continue to turn to a golden tan color as they cure.  We tend to not leave them in the field on the vine too long because a heavy rain and soil contact can result in many of them going bad on us.

These pumpkins are also a c.moschata (solid stem) and their vines can get fairly long.  If you can manage to get them a longer growing season, they will reward you.  Pumpkin size can range from 5 to 30 pounds.  Our average tends to be around 15 pounds.  The seed cavity is relatively small and the fruits are very dense.  The meat is a deep orange to red-orange color.  You can almost make a pie out of them without adding any other spices.

If they have a downside, it is that they almost get too big for us to use with our CSA.  On the other hand, they store well.  They look wonderful as a kitchen centerpiece and you can easily freeze the excess in freezer bags for later use.

Winter Luxury
Our third variety is Winter Luxury.  This pumpkin is smaller than the other two (Long Island Cheese and Musquee de Provence) and stores less well.  The seed cavity is bigger in comparison to the the rest of the pumpkin and the size lands in the 4-6 pound area.  On the plus side, you can often get more fruit per row foot, the vines are shorter and the smaller fruit make it easier to make these a part of a CSA share.

It has also been reported to us that these small pumpkins can be used for soup recipes and stuffed pumpkin recipes with some success.  However, when one uses them for pie (or breads) people have reported that it is the smoothest of these pumpkins when cooked down.  The Seed Savers Blog has a post on using the Winter Luxury pumpkin that might be of interest to those who are reading this post.  According that blog post, Winter Luxury was developed in 1893 by a seed company in Philadelphia.  However, Fedco Seeds reports that the initial strain was yellow and this strain with the orange skin was developed 20 years later in Oregon.

Cooking Squash
The following works for any winter squash - from acorn squash to pumpkins. Acorn squash, being smaller, will take far less time to cook. Excess squash reheats readily and can easily be placed in a freezer bag and frozen.
  1. Carefully cut squash into halves or quarters
  2. Empty seed cavity of all seed and 'stringy' goo
  3. Place face down in cake pan
  4. Put 1/4 inch of water in bottom of pan
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F until a fork easily goes through entire squash (30 to 60 minutes depending on squash)
Cutting Squash
Many squash have extraordinarily hard skin. Use a large, sharp knife and use common sense when cutting open a squash. If you are unable to cut a squash in half, you may soften it by puncturing holes in the squash and using the microwave.
As easy as (pumpkin) pie!
Most winter squashes can be made into a pie. However, we can safely eliminate acorn and spaghetti squash from possible candidates. Varieties that are particularly good at being adapted to pies are Long Island Cheese, Amish Pie, Musquee de Provence, Winter Luxury, New England Pie, Australian Butter and Kikuza.
If you find a recipe calling for a can of pumpking just remember this:
1 can = 2 cups cooked pumpkin / winter squash.

Tammy's recipes for pumpkin pie are also found on our website!

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
  • 1 envelope Knox gelatine
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
Mix the above on low heat and stir in
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 egg yolks (save the whites)
  • 2 cups cooked pumpkin
Mix well. Cook, stirring occassionally until gelatin dissolves (approx 25 min). Chill until the filling can drop from the spoon.
Beat egg whites until stiff. Beat 1/4 cup sugar into egg whites.
Fold egg white mixture into pumpkin filling. Place into large baked pie shell.

Pumpkin Pie
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin
  • 12 fluid oz evaporated milk
  • 1 unbaked pie shell (9 inch, deep dish) - or prepare your own pie crust
  • whipped cream (optional)
Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell. Bake in preheated oven (425 degrees F) for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for 40 to 50 minutes (until knife inserted near the center comes out clean). Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.

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