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Winter Pumpkins and Squash Make Delicious Soup

Locally grown pumpkins, gourds and winter squash hit the markets, and they taste as good as they look.

It wouldn’t be October in this part of the world without pumpkins sneaking into the culinary scene. Several varieties of pumpkins, winter gourds and squash are appearing at local farmers markets just in time this year.

There are the orange Hokkaidos, which look like pumpkins with lumpy red-orange skin, dusty green kabochas, pale tan butternut, bright yellow spaghetti squash, Delicata, sweet dumpling and Blue Hubbard, to name a few varieties.

Almost any winter squash can be cooked, pureed and simmered into a delectable soup, but among all of the soup-friendly winter squashes, the fiery red orange Hokkaidos are the highest-recommended. They have a creamy texture, and a not-too-sweet chestnut flavor. Lonely Mountain Farm is bringing Hokkaido squash. Owner Kenny Baker refers to the plants as “Potimarron,” and said it is also known as "red Kuri" squash. 

On a recent rainy and blustery night, a friend and I cooked up a Butternut and orange Hokkaido squash, purchased from Thomas Farm at Santa Cruz's Downtown Farmers Market.

Not only did one large Hokkaido and one butternut squash make a delicious and creamy batch of soup, it transformed my friend’s kitchen into a steamy pumpkin-smelling refuge from the cold rain. The process of making soup from winter squash is simple but there are several steps, which makes it one of those perfect projects for a rainy day at home. 

Below are some easy guidelines to making Winter Squash Soup, inspired by a butternut squash recipe by local chef Santos Batista of Bittersweet Bistro in Aptos:

  1. Roast chunks of butternut* squash in a pan of water in a 400 degree oven. 
  2. As the squash gets softer, sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
  3. Sautee one whole onion and garlic in some butter or olive oil as the squash cooks. 
  4. When the squash is soft enough to scoop out, do so and add onions, garlic, a little bit of cream and chicken broth and continue to roast. 
  5. By now the squash will be very aromatic and should be roasted until it is mushy.
  6. Put in blender and purree. Add chicken stock or broth and cream or half and half until you get the desired texture. And salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Garnish with sliced scallions.

 *We used orange Hokkaido squash in addition to Butternut. We also added added plenty of cayenne for some forehead heat. Batista suggests adding steamed celery for a lighter consistency and taste. This soup tastes great the next day!

Other Soup Ideas:

Local grower David Pew of Terra Boa Farm and Route 1 Farms recommends combining winter squash with sage, which is available year-round at Route 1 Farms, and also suggests using tomato, curry and celery with your squash puree.

“Add a dollop of yogurt and then cilantro or chive and you’re in business,” Pew said.

Halloween Pumpkins and Ornamental Gourds:

Lonely Mountain is also selling gourds, which are less edible for their tough skin and less-tasty insides (although some people do eat them), but are pretty lo look at. Baker recommended scooping these gourds out and letting them dry in the sun for a few days in order to make things out of them, like spoons. He will be setting up a pumpkin patch on his farm in Freedom. See Baker at the Live Oak, Downtown, or Felton market for more details.

About this column: Each Friday, writer Maria Grusauskas will give a sneak peak of the best fruits and vegetables expected at the weekend farmers markets.

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