I think it’s a shame that pumpkins get hijacked by Halloween. Although they make a brief comeback for Thanksgiving in pie form, their curtain call comes much too early in the season. So what’s a pumpkin-loving girl supposed to do? This one makes a quick shift to other members of the Cucurbitaceae family: gourds and various winter squash. They don’t put me in a dizzy swoon quite the same way pumpkins do, but they’ll suffice. Gourds are great for cool-weather crafts, and winter squash will supply the awesome fodder for delicious dishes all the way until strawberry time (known by some as “spring”).
Gourds and squash are actually fruits by botanical definition–but because they are treated more like a vegetable than a dessert, they are typically considered vegetables. Most commonly, gourds are the product of the species Lagenaria siceraria (the calabash or African bottle gourd), native to Africa. This species is thought by many to be the oldest plant domesticated by humans.
Some gourds are put to culinary application, but most are used in the form of a vessel; think bowls, bottles, yerba mate cups, musical instruments, and birdhouses. Winter squash is used more for food than decoration. Following are ideas for ways to use both.
1. Bird feeder. Small birds, such as finches and pine siskins, will appreciate the protection from predators that these bird feeders offer. They’re very cute, especially with finches and pine siskins poking their little faces out of the windows.
2. Delicata squash, stuffed and baked. The version above is white bean and kale stuffed delicata squash from cooklocal.com, or try this easy recipe for cheese spread baked in a winter squash with dates, and cranberry chutney. Yum, yum, and yum.
3. Gourd bowl. Meet Karen LoCasale, gourd artist extraordinaire! Watch her eHow video to see how someone makes making a gourd bowl look easy.
4. Butternut squash lasagna. There’s this version by Giada De Laurentiis that has amaretti cookies (is that even fair?!), and there’s my version–no cookies, but it does have lots of sage, raisins and pine nuts!
5. Pumpkin treats for luscious skin. You knew I’d have to sneak some pumpkin in, didn’t you? The pumpkin in this facial mask and sugar scrub contains a lot of anti-oxidant vitamins A and C, as well as zinc and beneficial alpha-hydroxy acids–a perfect combo to reveal your lovely autumn skin.
6. Amazing gourd lamp. Leave it to Martha Stewart to describe this gourd lamp project as “simple,” but then again, if you use the recommended kit that is usually used for turning a bottle into a lamp (available at most hardware and crafts stores)–maybe it is. I have always wanted to make one, I think they are clever and lovely.
7. Winter squash candles. If the gourd lamp seems too ambitious, there’s these super easy winter squash candles from hgtv.com–no sawing or wiring required, just a little hot wax and winter squash as the mold.
8. Maple roasted acorn squash. This scrumptious recipe is so easy, it practically makes itself.
9. Gourd garland. Here’s another project from Martha (she’s good with the gourds, by golly). This gourd garland is pretty user-friendly, and very sweet on the eye.
10. Butternut cheesecake bars. Yes, that says butternut cheesecake bars–and they are a very wonderful invention. I will go ahead and give pumpkin one last spin in a pie for the season, but starting tomorrow? Butternut cheesecake bars all the way.