Amira’s Prolific Pumpkins

Although not certified organic, Olana Farm grows produce on 2.25-acres using strictly organic methods.

What’s growing now

Arugula, avocado, basil (Thai, Italian, lemon), bak choy, beets, carrots, celery, chard (Swiss, rainbow), chives, cilantro, collards, fennel, green onions, ginger, guava, kale (curly, lacinato, red Russian, red curly), kaffir (leaves, fruit), mint, mustard greens (red, green), oregano, pak choi, papaya (green sunrise), pak choi (baby green, baby purple), parsley (Italian, curly), passionfruit, pea shoots, pineapple (white), pumpkin, rosemary, tangelo, thyme, tomatoes (cherry red, yellow pear), turmeric, turnips (white, red), yacón.

Amira Pumpkin 

“This variety was selected from seeds that were saved because they are adapted to Hawaii and resist powdery mildew and being stung by the fruit fly,” says Tom O’Connor. “We liken it to a tender butternut squash, but it has thin skin and sweet, tender flesh. We named it after my wife, Amira.”

Amira pumpkins have a deep gold, creamy interior that’s sweet and full of seeds, which can be planted in home gardens. You don’t need to peel them because the skin is smooth and tender enough to eat.

Pumpkins are a prolific crop and a medium sized one can make up to eight meals. They are considered a winter squash because they are harvested in late summer and early fall, and keep throughout the winter.

Season

Amira pumpkins take up to three months to go from seed to table. On Kauai, they are available from spring through summer and possibly into fall.

What to look for

Select pumpkins that are hard, heavy and free of soft spots. External skin blemishes do not compromise the integrity of the flesh. Stems should be attached, otherwise bacteria gets inside and spoils the flesh.

Storage

Store on a counter out of direct sunlight. O’Connor says pumpkins stored this way will keep for a few weeks.

Tip

Seeds make an excellent snack food. Scoop out the pulp and seeds and spread the seeds in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Lightly roast at 160 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Roasting for a relatively short time at a low temperature minimizes damage to healthy oils. 

Preparation

Purchasing pumpkins may seem expensive, but they are worth every penny. I used my pumpkin in four meals: the pilaf below, a kale and caramelized onion tart, ravioli (made with wonton wrappers) and a Thai coconut soup.

The easiest way I have found to cook pumpkins is to cut and roast them. If you can’t break the stem off, make the cut just off center. Cut the halves in half and rub the quarters with oil. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until tender. Cool and use in pies, cakes, sweet bread, soups, stews, tarts, risotto and custards.

Pumpkin pairs well with olive oil, coconut butter, butter, cream, ghee, sage, rosemary, garlic, cumin, red chili, miso, feta, Fontina, Gruyère, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, onions, apples, pears and quinces.

Health benefits

Butternut squash and pumpkins, both considered winter squash, have long been recognized as an important food source of carotenoids. Recent research documented key antioxidants, which are a primary food source for alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. Winter squash is also among the top three food sources for lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin (health-supportive carotenoids). Linoleic acid (a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid) and oleic acid (a monounsaturated fatty acid) account for about 75 percent of the fat found in the seeds.

Olana Farm produce can be found at

Farmers Markets: Kilauea Neighborhood Center (Thursday at 4:30 p.m), Namahana Farmers Market by Banana Joe’s (Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Restaurants: The Garden Cafe. Info: 346-5936, or grow.kauai@gmail.com.

Amira Pumpkin Pilaf

This recipe uses quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), a nutritionally dense seed that’s packed with protein, antioxidants and essential fatty acids. Once cooked, the seeds are light and fluffy with tiny spirals. Rinse the quinoa first to remove an outer coating of saponins, which can lend a bitter taste. Serves 4. 

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup sweet onion, finely diced

1 Hawaiian chili pepper, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 2 pounds Amira pumpkin, roasted and cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1 3/4 cup water

1 teaspoon Hawaiian sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

2 large handfuls kale

Place pumpkin seeds in a 4-quart pot and toast over medium heat until fragrant. Remove from pot. Add oil and heat until it shimmers. Add onion and cook for about three minutes, until it begins to soften. Stir in chili, garlic and kale and cook, stirring every so often, for about three minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, add quinoa and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, fluff with a fork and stir in pumpkin and seeds. Cover with lid and let the pumpkin warm through on the burner, with the heat turned off, for about 10 minutes.

Amira’s Prolific Pumpkins – Thegardenisland.com: Opinion

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