Tags Posts tagged with "Pumpkins"


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.

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While most pumpkins are fairly large, tiny varieties, such as the white and orange ones above, make cute decorations for the dinner table. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

It will soon be time to plant your vegetable garden. Do you sometimes feel that you plant the “same old, same old?” The same tomatoes? The same green beans? If so, why not try some really unique veggies along with the traditional ones? Some say they’re ugly while others call them cute. They’re the veggies that differ from the norm. Here’s a sampling, but you can find lots more in all the seed catalogues that are arriving.

When you think of cauliflower, you usually think of a snowy white head of florets surrounded by green leaves. But, have you considered Graffiti Hybrid, which has purple florets, or Cheddar Hybrid, which is the color of cheddar cheese and a good source of vitamin A. A really unique looking cauliflower is Veronica Romanesco Hybrid, which has a green head, and a sweet nutty flavor that is milder than most cauliflowers. The florets are spiraled and resemble a bunch of hens and chicks. Yes, I really want to try this one myself.

Most radishes have a red skin and a white interior. This fast-growing crop likes cool weather, so plant early for a spring crop or late in summer for a fall crop. But a really unique radish, Watermelon, reverses the colors. It has a white and green skin and pinkish-red interior. It grows bigger than most — two to four inches. The flavor is said to be mild with a bit of sweetness.

Nothing says autumn like pumpkins, whether for pies or jack-o’-lanterns. But if you want to grow some eye-catchers, consider any one of a number of bumpy pumpkins. There’s Red Warty Thing, Goosebumps Hybrid, Galeux d’Eysines and Knucklehead Hybrid. Yes, they’re edible, but these eerie pumpkins are ideal to be turned into Halloween jack-o’-lanterns, warty faces and all. Tiny, smooth-skinned pumpkins include Jack Be Little, which is so small it fits in the palm of your hand. If you’re planning on entering a contest for the biggest, try Prizewinner Hybrid, which has been known to reach up to 400 pounds.

Say tomato and most people will think of the round, orangy-red fruit that goes perfectly with bacon and lettuce to form a BLT sandwich. But, tomatoes, like so many other fruits, come in different colors such as yellow — Yellow Pear and Lemon Boy Hybrid — or blue — Indigo Blue Beauty and Indigo Apple. Tomato sizes range from tiny to enormous. Ugly Ripes are wrinkled but delicious.

Yes, there are many other veggies and fruits that have varieties that differ from the norm. There’s bicolored corn and Golden Detroit, a pale orange beet. Read your gardening catalogues and try at least one or two unique veggies this year.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.