But the fruit is flexible and can add an interesting twist to foods including salsa, soups and sandwiches.
Pumpkin helps make autumn the best season to go out to eat, said Providence Spotts while she talked of plans to head to Accomac Inn and order "one of my favorite dishes," pumpkin risotto.
Spotts owns Providence Divine Cakes and Pastries in York Township, where she creates goodies such as mini pumpkin cheesecakes dipped in cinnamon white chocolate and garnished with a pecan.
She also makes a pumpkin torte of white cake layered with pumpkin butter and pumpkin cream cheese mousse.
"I love pumpkin," she said. "I wish it wasn't seasonal."
Hide it in recipes
Whether canned, fresh or frozen, pumpkin is high in fiber, calcium and vitamin A, said Marcia Weber, Penn State York Cooperative Extension educator.
"It's very healthy," she said. "It's not high in calories just by itself."
Pumpkin is a versatile fruit that can be cooked in a variety of foods.
"A lot of people will chunk it and put it in a medley of roasted vegetables," Weber said of a dish including onions, celery and peppers sprinkled with a little olive oil and roasted in a 400-degree oven to a desired texture.
Some use pumpkin as a "hidden ingredient" to add flavor and nutrition to recipes, including tomato sauce and barbecue mixtures, she said.
Weber also said pumpkin seeds can be toasted with a little oil and spices for a light snack.
Pumpkin puree can be safely frozen, but the fruit should be cubed into one-inch chunks for canning, she said. While commercial factories process pureed pumpkin for canning, home kitchens can't generate the high heat needed to safely can crushed pumpkin, she said.
Pumpkins add great flavor to beverages as well, said Steve Stoppard, owner of Mr. Steve's Homebrew & Wine Supplies in Springettsbury Township.
Stoppard said he spent years refining - but little time naming - a pumpkin beer recipe he posts on his business website.
"I have my own personal pumpkin recipe that I have tweaked over and over again . . . This recipe is near and dear to my heart," he said. "My first brewing partner 20 years ago, a yellow Lab named Tye . . . got into the pumpkin I baked for my recipe and ate half of it before I caught him. Hence the name Brewmutt Pumpkin Breath Ale.
"My method for prepping the pumpkin is to place the pumpkin in a muslin bag with the spices," Stoppard said. "I place the pumpkin bag in a pan and mash it with my hands or large spoon. . . . The key is to balance the spice with the hops and the barley.
He also has an original recipe for pumpkin wine.
Julie Flinchbaugh of Flinchbaugh's Orchard and Farm Market in Hellam Township said this season's pumpkin crop yield and quality are good.
"There is always something fun and new with each pumpkin season," she said via email. "From regular jack-o'-lanterns to pie pumpkins to ornamental gourds, there should be a wonderful selection out there."
KAREN DOYLE of North Hopewell Township-based Family Tree Farm, which includes a four-acre pumpkin patch, grew a variety of pumpkins this season including a special fruit for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
"They look pink," she said of the pumpkins.
She also raised blue and white pumpkins. "There's a pumpkin for everybody out here," she said. "The pumpkins are looking great."
Family Tree Farm will offer pick-your-own pumpkins from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 12 to 5 p.m. Sundays through the end of October.
The farm also offers wagon rides and a kid-friendly corn maze.
Learn more at www.familytreefarmexperience.com.
(from the kitchen of Sonia Flinchbaugh)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup fresh pumpkin
2 cup sugar
2 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup nuts
Mix all ingredients in large bowl. Bake on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
3 ounces softened cream cheese
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
¾ pound confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk
Mix all ingredients in small bowl. Spread evenly on top of cooled pumpkin bars.
Best if kept refrigerated.
"My Mom's pumpkin bars . . . probably one of my favorite recipes."
- Julie Flinchbaugh of Flinchbaugh's Orchard
& Farm Market in Hellam Township
MOM'S BEST PUMPKIN CUSTARD
2 cups sieved pumpkin (if you use a fresh pumpkin or squash, you need to process it in a food processor, then drain the pumpkin to remove as much water as possible before you use it.)
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup coconut
Dash of cinnamon and nutmeg
1 cup milk
Beat eggs in a baking dish and add other ingredients in order listed. Mix well before and after adding milk.
Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, adding marshmallows the last 30 minutes.
Note: to use a pumpkin or squash suitable for baking, it's best to cut pumpkin into pieces, remove seeds and bake flesh down on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, depending on the thickness of the shell. Test for softness, cool, remove shell, process and drain.
"A recipe passed down to me from my mother."
- Karen Doyle of Family Tree Farm in North Hopewell Township