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Pumpkins

Take part in the annual Costumed Dog Parade on East Main Street on Oct. 21. File photo by Bob Savage

By Heidi Sutton

Looking for something fun to do with the family this weekend? Then head down to the Village of Port Jefferson as it transforms into the annual Oktober Harvest Fest on Oct. 21 and 22 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This year the event will be sponsored by the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District in cooperation with the Incorporated Village of Port Jefferson. The two-day festival will feature a pumpkin decorating contest, a cherry pie eating contest, a pumpkin harvest maze and patch (fee), a self-guided art walk, cornhole games, a scarecrow meet and greet, strolling musicians, a pirate scavenger hunt (fee), horse and wagon rides (fee), ten-foot Tall Walkers, a scarecrow walk, a harvest photo op and much more.

Barbara Ransome, Director of Operations at the Port Jefferson Chamber, is looking forward to seeing the fun unfold. 

“There will be events throughout the whole village so its very walkable, very accessible and very family friendly. You can park your car and choose from a large selection of activities,” she said.

Highlights this year include the annual Halloween costumed dog parade sponsored by Fetch Doggy Boutique along East Main Street on Saturday at 12:30 p.m., and a village-wide Chowder Crawl on Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. According to Ransome, in the case of torrential rain, the parade and Chowder Crawl will be pushed to Sunday.

This year many of the businesses in the village will host activities in front of or in their shops. Fall Fun kids crafts will be offered at Kilwins, a B&B Paranormal Investigations Tour sign up sheet will be at the Port Jeff Brewing Company (fee), and Oktober Fest Tastings will be offered at Port Jeff Liquor, Whiskey Barrel, Spycoast and Pindar for adults, just to name a few. For a full schedule of events, visit www.portjeffchamber.com.

Up next in the Village is the Santa Parade on Nov. 26, the Festival of Trees at the Port Jefferson Village Center from Dec. 1 to Jan. 2 and the 27th annual Charles Dickens Festival on Dec. 2 and 3. For more information, call 631-473-1414.

By Kimberly Brown

Get ready to be enchanted by the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, an annual family tradition on Long Island showcasing thousands of creatively carved pumpkins crafted by Blaze’s skilled team of carving artisans. From September 22 to November 5, this family-friendly Halloween experience will take place along an easily walkable half-mile loop at Long Island’s historic 19th-century village, the Old Bethpage Village Restoration. 

As the county’s largest Halloween event, Blaze has successfully attracted tens of thousands of visitors since its opening in September. Playing a crucial part in honoring Long Island’s history through the exhibition is Michael Natiello, the Creative Director, who has been showcased on HGTV, the TODAY show, and numerous national broadcasts.

“The exhibits are very photogenic, highly artistic, and of course extremely relevant for the fall season,” said  Natiello. “Our artisans work very hard to create magnificent sculptural installations, carved and built right on the Old Bethpage Restoration property. In addition to the initial 7,000 jack o’lanterns, over 800 new pumpkins are carved and added to the experience each week, some taking up to four hours each to design and carve!”   

Blaze’s latest 2023 displays are sure to impress many, as they celebrate the cultural heritage of Long Island. The exhibition will showcase pumpkin portraits of beloved local icons like Billy Joel and Joan Jett, an enchanting “Bones Beach” tribute to Jones Beach complete with pumpkin deep-sea divers, a colossal octopus, a majestic humpback whale, and many other marine creatures as well as the Long Island Lighthouse and an array of other captivating attractions!

“What sets Blaze apart from other local Halloween-themed experiences is that parents can feel comfortable knowing it’s family-friendly, safe, and a gorgeous feast for the eyes!” said Rob Schweitzer, Historic Hudson Valley Vice President for Communications & Commerce. “Steeped in Long Island culture and history, we design our event so all ages can make memories along our candlelit, easily walkable pathway.”

This year includes live, nightly pumpkin carving by Blaze’s expert team of pumpkin carving artisans, the Blaze Boo-tique featuring seasonal gifts and fun merchandise, and Café Blaze, an on-site café featuring fall treats, pumpkin beer, and wine. Proceeds from ticket purchases support the preservation of Old Bethpage Village Restoration and the educational programming of Historic Hudson Valley.

Blaze has limited capacity and all admissions are by advance purchase timed ticket or FLEX anytime ticket. No tickets are sold on-site, and the event is held rain or shine. Online tickets start at $29 for adults and $19 for children 3-17 and are free for children 2 and under. For tickets and event dates, visit www.pumpkinblaze.org.

Old Bethpage Village Restoration is located at 1303 Round Swamp Road in Old Bethpage.

For more information, call 516-572-8409.

 

Lenny Bruno Farms, 740 Wading River Road, Manorvile invites you to “The Great Pumpkin Palooza,” an engaging agritourism event celebrating Fall’s essence, on September 30 and October 1, October 7, 8, and 9, October 14 and 15, and October 21 and 22 from 10 am to 5 pm.

The Great Pumpkin Palooza” welcomes visitors to experience the beauty of the autumn season and enjoy a range of activities, including pumpkin picking, sunflower picking, a family-friendly spooky corn maze, live music performances, a corn hole tournament hosted by Westhampton Beach Brewery, jumbo garden games, a kid-friendly play patch with a mini hay maze, tractor pedal cars, and more, as well as the opportunity to get unique charcoal portraits, participate in an Oktoberfest pop-up, as well as pumpkin pie eating contests.

To join in the festivities, there is an admission fee of $10. Children aged 2 and under enter for free, ensuring an inclusive experience for families. These comprehensive event weekends promise an array of activities to celebrate the autumn season, making it a captivating and affordable choice for individuals and groups alike. In addition, there are educational hayrides led by Dominic Bruno, offering insights into sustainable farming practices for a nominal fee of $5. Additionally, “The Great Pumpkin Palooza” will offer an array of options from food trucks and showcase local artisan vendors with a variety of food and goods available for purchase. Children’s activity vendors will also be present, offering experiences such as face painting, fairy hair, candle crafting, and more, ensuring a truly immersive and memorable event for visitors of all ages.

Dominick Bruno, owner of Lenny Bruno Farms, shared his enthusiasm for the event, saying, “We’re thrilled to invite families to our farm for ‘The Great Pumpkin Palooza.’ This event series captures the heart of the harvest season and offers a chance for visitors to connect with the land, the produce, and the community.”

The event will also feature local nonprofit animal rescues on certain dates, providing an opportunity for attendees to meet and potentially adopt rescue animals.

The festival weekends showcase Lenny Bruno Farms’ dedication to sustainable farming practices and the farm stand offers visitors the chance to buy hand-picked produce, including peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and more, while interacting with the farmers and gaining insights into the farm’s operations.

For more information and a full line-up of events,  call 631-591-3592 or visit www.lennybrunofarms.com/events

A farm stand along Sound Avenue in Riverhead with many edible varieties of pumpkins for sale. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Barbara Beltrami

As far as I can tell it’s the pumpkin pie filling that everyone craves. Since it’s really nothing more than a pudding or custard, why not forget about the crust and go straight to the filling with pumpkin rice pudding, pumpkin-peanut parfait or pumpkin custard? The farm stands still have pumpkins galore and one I stopped at had a sign that said that all pumpkins are edible. So there’s no need to wait till Thanksgiving for your pumpkin fix; grab one or two modest sized ones or pick up a can of pumpkin puree at the supermarket to treat your family or guests to a smooth and creamy pumpkin dessert. 

Pumpkin – Ginger Snap Rice Pudding

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

2 cups water

1 cup arborio rice

3 cups milk

1 cup pumpkin puree

3/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups crumbled ginger snaps

8 whole ginger snaps

1/2 pint whipped cream

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large ovenproof saucepan bring the water to a boil; stir in rice, cover and simmer until most of the water has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. In a large bowl whisk together the milk, puree, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Immediately add pumpkin mixture to hot rice; stir well; cover and place saucepan in oven. Bake until liquid is reduced by one third and mixture is bubbly and foamy, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, stir well, transfer to large bowl and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. When ready to serve, spoon mixture and crumbled ginger snaps in alternating layers into wine glasses or stemmed dessert dishes; top with whipped cream and garnish with whole gingersnaps. Serve with hot apple cider.

Pumpkin-Peanut Parfait

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

4 cups milk

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/3 cups chopped salted peanuts

DIRECTIONS: 

In a medium saucepan combine 3 cups of the milk, puree, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and ginger; whisk to combine then cook  to a simmer over medium-low heat. In a large bowl whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, egg yolks and remaining cup milk. Whisk half the hot milk-pumpkin mixture into the egg mixture, then transfer back to saucepan and whisk to combine with remaining hot milk mixture. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until mixture boils; continue to cook, still whisking constantly, until mixture thickens, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter. Layering alternately with peanuts, transfer to stemmed glasses, then refrigerate covered, at least two hours.  Serve with whipped cream.

Pumpkin Custard

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

2 large eggs

12 ounces evaporated skim milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Pinch salt

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl whisk together the pumpkin puree, eggs, milk and vanilla. In another large bowl combine the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Sift sugar mixture into pumpkin mixture; stir until dry ingredients are completely absorbed; pour into 3/4-cup custard dishes. Place custard dishes in 9” x 13” oven dish and fill it with enough hot water to reach halfway up dishes. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until custard is set and top is nicely browned. Transfer custard to wire racks to cool. Serve with crème fraîche.

Michelle LaBozzetta, Eric J. Hughes and Steven Uihlein in a scene from the show in 2019. Photo from Theatre Three

Children’s theater continues at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson with A Kooky Spooky Halloween, a merry musical about a ghost who’s afraid of the dark, from Oct. 9 to 30 (*sensory-sensitive performance on Oct. 10).

Recently graduated spirit Abner Perkins is assigned to the Aberdeen Boarding House — known for its spectral sightings and terrific toast. Here, Abner finds himself cast into a company of its wacky residents. When his secret is revealed, he is forced to leave his haunted home and set-off on a quest with his newly found friends. On this journey to find spook-tacular promise, Abner and company learn the power of helping others. Hilarious hijinks and a message of cooperation highlight this delightful musical for the entire family.

All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Second graders in Ms. Gabriel’s and Mrs. Chester’s classes at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School in the Smithtown Central School District created jack-o’-lanterns and worked on a writing element on how to carve a pumpkin. They used transition words and adjectives to improve their writing.

Smithtown Central School District

Thousands flocked to the annual Long Island Fall Festival, hosted by the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce and Town of Huntington, in Heckscher Park from Oct. 6 to 9. The event was lively Saturday as unseasonably warm weather brought attendees out to enjoy a variety of live performances, street vendors, carnival rides and games. Rainy weather thinned the crowd later in the weekend, but did not stop the festivities.

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Ann Marie's Farmstand in Port Jefferson Station displays some of the many different varieties of squash available in the fall. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

Squash, the genus Cucurbita, are grown today extensively throughout the world as a food source. They are one of the Three Sisters (corn, beans and squash), which were developed in the Americas and then taken by European explorers back home.

One of them, zucchini is so closely associated with Italian cooking that most people don’t realize that it is a native of the Americas, not Italy.

Squash are generally grouped in two categories, summer squash and winter squash. Most are vines and, although some are perennials, they are grown in temperate regions as annuals. The plants easily self-seed. I’ve even seen them growing along sidewalks from seeds that overwintered from decorative pumpkins left outside.

Incidentally, although gourds look similar to squash, they are not native to the Americas, but rather Africa.  The same is true of melons. Gourds and melons, however, are related to squash (family Cucurbitaceae, but a different genus).

Ann Marie's Farmstand in Port Jefferson Station displays some of the many different varieties of squash available in the fall. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Ann Marie’s Farmstand in Port Jefferson Station displays some of the many different varieties of squash available in the fall. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Squash, botanically are fruit, in the same way that tomatoes are. They are the ripened seed pod of the plant. Summer squash are harvested in summer, before the skin hardens. Summer squash include zucchini, yellow summer squash, scallop squash and yellow crookneck squash.

Winter squash are harvested in fall, after the skin has hardened. Therefore, these squash need to be peeled before use. Varieties of winter squash include hubbard squash, turban squash, pumpkin, butternut squash, acorn squash and spaghetti squash. We tend to think of winter squash as traditionally served at Thanksgiving (pumpkin pie and butternut squash in particular); however, spaghetti squash is available in supermarkets year round and is frequently roasted and served with tomato sauce, in place of spaghetti made from wheat to cut down on carbs.

Squash are known for their high vitamin content (particularly A) and trace minerals, making them an excellent addition to the diet.

My favorite butternut squash recipe takes butternut squash cubes cooked with sausage, thyme, salt and pepper in a skillet in chicken or beef broth with some onions until the sausage and squash are done.

Squash blossoms are edible as well. The ones generally seen in markets are zucchini blossoms. They are usually fried, but they can be baked, stuffed with cheese and spices, served with spaghetti or in soups. There are plenty of recipes online to satisfy all.

Since zucchini plants are so prolific, you’ll still get plenty of squash if you eat some of the flowers.

Squash grows in a wide variety of soil types but does need fertilizer (for example, composted manure). They produce the most fruits in sun. They grow in a soil pH of 5.5 to 7.5 (very acidic to mildly alkaline, with 7 being neutral). They can be grown in large containers, so if you have a small yard, you can put the container on a deck or patio.

According to the seed company Burpee, cucurbits don’t like to have their roots disturbed, so either plant them directly outside, start them in peat pots, which can be planted whole in the garden, or buy seedlings from a nursery, being careful not to disturb the roots. They also suggest adding fertilizer when the plants begin to blossom and set fruit since squash are heavy feeds (like tomatoes).

Like tomatoes, these are tender plants. They like warm soil (so don’t put them out too early in a cool spring) and need a steady supply of water, so be aware of weeks of little or no rain.

Winter squash can also be used as outdoor decorations in the fall. Some squash develop into really weird shapes naturally while others are accidental crosses between two varieties producing things like green pumpkins.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions to [email protected]. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

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Sara Leavens and Megan O’Haire hold their free pumpkins. Photo from Carole Paquette

Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve will hold its Second Annual Fall Festival on Sunday, Sept. 27. The fun-filled event will be held at Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Smithtown, between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

There will be many activities geared to the natural and historical features of the Park. These include nature and birding walks led by popular local naturalists, such as Eric Powers, Four Harbors Audubon Society and Long Island Sierra Club; catch-and-release fishing for children under age 13, with worms and tackle provided; a fly-fishing demonstration; colonial and Native American games and crafts; antique cars and traditional music by popular entertainers.

Other events include: a mammal identification skull science program presented by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, a pond ecology program by nature illustrator and environmental educator Ján Porinchak, a honey-bee demonstration by Donal Peterson of 3 Bees Apiary, and a presentation by Volunteers for Wildlife who will bring some rehabilitated animals. Also, Mindy Block of Quality Parks Master Naturalist Program will lead a hike and have native plants and/or seeds for sale.

There will also be face painting, a 50-50 raffle and door prizes. Free pumpkins will be given to children on a first-come, first-served basis. Food and ice cream will be for sale.

Continuous entertainment will include: Maria Fairchild and Max Rowland, and Kirsten Maxwell and Mike Tedesco.

Maria Fairchild is known as one of the top “clawhammer” (Appalachian style) banjo players in the Northeast. She is popular for her singing and engaging wit, with traditional and modern material. She teaches banjo and plays with two bands, Dance All Night and Long Island Bluegrass Quartet.

Max Rowland plays music steeped in tradition and is seen locally at venues such as Old Bethpage Village Restoration, in historical re-enactments of the Civil War and American Revolutionary periods. He plays the accordion, concertina, banjo, mandolin and autoharp and is also a member of Dance All Night.

Kirsten Maxwell’s voice and writing style have been likened to that of Joan Baez, and blends a background in classical music with elements of folk, country, and contemporary genres.

Pianist, singer-songwriter Mike Tedesco’s original music is infused with jazz, pop, rock and soul influences. Most recently he was selected to be a part of the legendary New York Songwriters Circle and will be performing at The Bitter End nightclub, as a part of the group, on Nov. 2.

Visitors to the festival will also have access to the Preserve’s Nature Museum, with its interactive exhibits in individually themed rooms with wooded or pond backdrops and mounted wildlife: the Forest Room; Pond Room; River Room and Wetlands Room; and the Who Eats Whom interactive computerized food chain puzzle.

Admission fee to the Festival is $10 per carload; there will be no parking fee. There will be designated hours for children’s fishing, the fly-fishing demonstration and face-painting.

Caleb Smith State Park Preserve is located on Jericho Turnpike, between The Bull and Old Willett’s Path. For further park information, call (631) 265-1054. For more information about the Friends and their events, check their website: www.friendsofcalebsmith.org.