Garden2Table Recipe Corner: ROASTED PUMPKIN & BABY KALE SALAD
Oh, Glorious October. “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers,” wrote L.M Montgomery in Anne of Green Gables, and most of America agrees. Google “Ode to October” and you will find many passionate odes exalting America’s second most favorite month of the year.* The beauty of the changing leaves, crisp cool mornings, sweater weather, apple picking, and everything pumpkin flavored and scented are some of the reasons why we embrace October. In New Mexico, October is the one month you can experience all four seasons in the same day. The Garden2Table outreach committee had several fun demonstration activities planned for our senior and community centers this month involving green tomatoes, mums, and, of course, pumpkins. Though we are extremely disappointed this SEMG outreach project has been suspended for the foreseeable future, we appreciate the opportunity to share them with you.
The optimum temperature for tomatoes to ripen on the vine is 70 to 75° F. When the daytime temperatures begin to cool in October, home gardeners often find themselves with a lot of green tomatoes left on the vines. Some of us will leave them to be pecked at by birds or nibbled on by rodents until we find the wherewithal to compost them, sometimes not until the following spring when we begin preparing our new gardens, while others will attempt to ripen them off the vine. One of our planned activities was demonstrating the various methods of ripening tomatoes off the vine, including the cardboard box, paper bag, jar, and hanging methods (How to Ripen Green Tomatoes).
If none of these methods appeal to you, there are dozens of savory recipes that use unripe tomatoes, including green tomato chutney, salsa, curry, and chili. Though we didn’t select a specific green tomato recipe to demonstrate, we were reviewing the 20 green tomato recipes that can be found on the ruralsprout.com website (Green Tomato Recipes), as well as pickling recipes found on the gardenbetty.com website (Four Ways to Pickled Green Tomatoes). One of my favorite green tomato recipes is Grilled Green Tomato Caprese: (1) marinate slices of green tomato in ½ cup olive oil, ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, a couple of cloves of garlic and salt (2) grill, and (3) serve with fresh mozzarella or ricotta, drizzled with more olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Mum + Pumpkin = Mumpkins
What could be more fall-like fun than selecting a pot of colorful mums and that perfect pumpkin? Though my kids are grown, I still love shopping for and decorating my front yard with mums and pumpkins. I do not miss the tedium and mess of carving dozens of pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns. Mumpkins satisfy those cravings while providing a beautiful, unique fall décor for your front stoop. While you still have the mess of scooping out the guts and seeds, after that it’s easy: just fill the hollowed-out pumpkin with some soil, plant the mum, and water (How to Make a Mumpkin). Remember to save those seeds for roasting and the mumpkins for composting (Putting Jack to Work: How to Wickedly Compost Pumpkins).
Pumpkin as Star Ingredient
Pumpkin is Precious Ramotswe’s favorite comfort food. In Alexander McCall Smith’s beloved series, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Mma Ramotswe, the founder and lead detective of the one and only detective agency in all of Botswana, heads slowly home after a sometimes busy but mostly slow day of sleuthing to prepare her favorite pumpkin dishes for her family: boiled or roasted pumpkin or pumpkin soup or stew. Precious enjoys preparing these dishes very slowly while sipping her bush tea. You get the picture: life moves slowly in Botswana. Being a fan of the series, I was fascinated that pumpkin could be a comfort food, as well as a major dietary staple in southern Africa and many other parts of the world. While we go crazy for our pumpkin-spiced everything this time of year (according to National Geographic most of the pumpkins grown in the US are destined for jack-o’-lanterns, décor, and pumpkin pies), the rest of the world grows pumpkins for food, which really shouldn’t be surprising considering they are rich in fiber and vitamins A and C and carotenoids (9 Impressive Health Benefits of Pumpkin). When I was coming up with recipes we could demonstrate in October, pumpkin was on my mind as a key recipe ingredient.
A couple of years ago, I came across a Southern Living magazine that featured several great pumpkin-based recipes—not just for pies or breads, but also main and side dishes (40 Easy Pumpkin Recipes Full of Fall Flavor). In honor of Mma Ramotswe, I set about testing several of them, though not so slowly and without the bush tea. The Pumpkin-Coconut Curry and the Chicken Stew with Pumpkin and Wild Rice were two of my favorites, as was the Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter, which is made with canned pumpkin and wonton wrappers. There are many constraints that must be considered when selecting a recipe to demonstrate: Time (we only have 1 to 1 ½ hours to prep, demonstrate, serve samples, and clean-up); amenities (some facilities only have a small sink and microwave, while others have kitchens); and types of appliances needed to prepare the recipe (those that can be plugged in using an extension cord, e.g., electric skillets, blenders/mixers, crockpots, etc.). With these considerations in mind, I selected the Roasted Pumpkin and Baby Kale Salad as our featured October recipe. I hope you enjoy preparing and eating this salad and trying the many other pumpkin recipes.
Wishing You a Happy & Healthy October
Chair, 2020 Garden2Table
*According to a 2005 Gallup poll, May was America’s first favorite month of the year, followed closely by October.
Garden2Table Recipe for October: ROASTED PUMPKIN & BABY KALE SALAD
*Adapted from SouthernLiving.com
This beautiful fall salad makes a tasty meal on its own or a nice addition to any menu. Tangy Dijon mustard-apple cider vinaigrette is a great match for the sweet roasted pumpkin and sharp baby kale leaves.
Prep Time 15 mins | Ready in 40 mins
1 3-pound sugar pumpkin, cut into 12 (1-inch) wedges
1 small red onion, cut into 8 wedges
4 thyme sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp. honey, divided
1 ¾ tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 tsp. black pepper, divided
1 Tbsp. whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
4 oz. baby kale greens (about 4 cups)
1/3 cup pomegranate arils
1/3 cup chopped, toasted pecans (or whole roasted pepitas)
3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled (about ¾ cup)
- Preheat oven to 450° Combine pumpkin, red onion, thyme, rosemary, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of honey in a large bowl; toss to coat.
- Divide pumpkin mixture evenly between 2 rimmed baking sheets coated with cooking spray, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and ¾ teaspoon of pepper. Bake until browned and tender, about 20 minutes. Do not stir. Cool for 10 minutes.
- Whisk together Dijon mustard, vinegar, remaining 4 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon of honey, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon in small bowl. Toss kale with 1 tablespoon of the dressing and arrange on a serving platter with pumpkin mixture. Sprinkle with pomegranate arils, nuts, and goat cheese; drizzle with remaining dressing.
- Choose a sugar pumpkin, which are small and round.
- Search for a well-attached, brown, dry stem (a sign it’s mature enough to be harvested).
- Look for deep nicks, bruised, and soft sports (signs that rot has set in).
- Don’t judge by color; a pumpkin’s hue will dull as its ages.
- Store in a cool, dry place.