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""This is a guest blog post from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), written by Program Coordinator Julia Grimaldi.

The pumpkin may be the quintessential symbol of fall in Massachusetts. New Englanders associate the squash with a change in temperature, shorter days, and Halloween. When fall comes around, we love to add pumpkin to everything from our lattes to lasagna to smoothies. Pumpkins provide several key nutrients, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), including dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron, and have been used in cooking in North and South America for centuries.

Although all pumpkins are edible, some types are tastier than others. When shopping for fresh pumpkins, look for the ones labeled “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins.” Some great local varieties are Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider, New England Pie Pumpkin, Lumina (which are white), Cinderella, and Fairy Tale. Cinderella and Fairy Tale pumpkins have hard, thick skins but still have delicious flesh inside. Many of these are available at your local farmers’ market or farm stand.

Today, the most popular carving pumpkin in America, with “the look” of a big Halloween pumpkin — deep orange color, defined ribs, and a good handle — is the Howden Pumpkin, which was developed by John Howden in the early 1960s in Sheffield, Massachusetts. The Howden Pumpkin is considered the original commercial jack-o’-lantern pumpkin and was developed from seed that originated in Connecticut. This intrepid farmer began saving seeds over the years to develop a better quality pumpkin and secured a seed patent for the Howden Pumpkin and the Howden Biggie in 1971 and 1996 respectively.

Pumpkin harvesting has a short season — from September through October — and pumpkin picking is a popular tourism activity in Massachusetts, with more than 200 farms growing pumpkins, including 66 with pick your own operations. Support your local farmers — pick a pumpkin from Massachusetts, whether you’re looking to make a tasty treat or a spooky decoration.

Chewy Pumpkin Cookies with Raisins

These pumpkin cookies add a taste of chewy deliciousness to the fall season.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh pumpkin puree from a 2-lb pie pumpkin (see instructions below) or 2 cups canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 tablespoons fresh grated orange peel
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup raisins

Instructions for Pumpkin Puree

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Wash outside of pumpkins.
  3. On a cutting board, using a large knife cut each pie pumpkin into quarters.
  4. With a spoon, scoop out the stringy pulp and seeds from each pumpkin quarter. Discard pulp and seeds.
  5. Place pumpkin quarters cut-side down on a baking sheet.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees until pumpkin is tender, about 45–50 minutes.
  7. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the pumpkins to cool until easy to handle.
  8. Using a sharp knife, peel the rind from the pumpkin. Discard the rind.
  9. Process the pumpkin flesh either through a food mill or in a food processor until smooth.

Instructions for Cookies

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Blend the pumpkin puree, white sugar, shortening, and grated orange peel together in a bowl with a rubber or silicon spatula. In a separate bowl, mix together the all-purpose flour, wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Slowly blend the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Fold the raisins into the batter.
  2. Drop the batter by the teaspoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Leave at least an inch of space between each cookie. Bake each tray of cookies for 8–10 minutes. Immediately remove the baked cookies from the cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack. After cooling, store the cookies in an airtight container for up to three days, or place in a freezer container and freeze.

Recipe Credit:

Julia Grimaldi, MDAR Program Coordinator, Savor Massachusetts

For more fall fun, check out MDAR’s apple picking blog, and tweet us a picture of your favorite pumpkin patch at @MassGov.

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