Pumpkin, not Halloween only

Pumpkin, not Halloween only


From poor ingredient to queen of the table. From peasant dish to protagonist of fairs and gastronomic events. From decorative element to cultural icon. The pumpkin, as Cinderella would say, has been transformed into a "carriage" following a brilliant path of rediscovery and enhancement in recent years.


There are many ways nature expresses its beauty – pumpkin is one of them.

It is a resistant, rustic and generously produced vegetable, which does not require too much attention other than being well watered. It is harvested in autumn and can last for months, a factor that has always made it, in peasant culture, one of the sources of heat to face the winter. Once dried, its hard rind can become a large container. Proof of this is the Piedmontese term «Lapacuse», with which the inhabitants of Piozzo were indicated, today the destination of one of the most important fairs in Italy dedicated to squash, which is held in October. The term - which is found with some variations also in other dialects - indicated the "squash lappers" (the cusa), because they used to transform the pumpkins into water bottles to quench their thirst while working in the countryside.

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The colors, aromas and flavors of Asti, Roero, Monferrato and Langhe. This is the new advertising claim launched by Duchessa Lia on the main media outlets: print, TV and radio. Wine is the gateway to the wonder of its territory, an invitation to explore its land of origin through colors, aromas and flavors. So we decided to dedicate the articles that will be published on our Blog to the colors, scents and flavors of wine: conveying its ability to take us on a unique sensory journey in a simple and direct manner.  

After talking about the color and aroma of wine (you can read our entries here and here), we continue with the flavors of Piedmontese wine, starting with some iconic regional dishes. 

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So, they said: pumpkin?

In nature, there are over 500 varieties of squash, which belong to 15 large families of cucurbits, of which only 5 are edible: the vegetable squash or zucchini (cucurbita pepo), the giant squash (cucurbita maxima, to which most part of the varieties of pumpkins we know), musk squash (cucurbita moschata), Siam squash (cucurbita ficifolia) and ayote (cucurbita argyrosperma). The other 455 varieties, truly marvelous in shape, surface and color (there are purple, blue, mottled, lumpy, mushroom and duck gourds) are mostly decorative.

Even the famous Halloween pumpkins, those with the classic orange ribbed shape, cannot be eaten: perhaps for this very reason they have become the object of artistic carvings. Tradition, in fact, wanted a turnip to be dug, the one used in the famous Jack-o'-lantern legend, of Irish origin. It is said that the protagonist placed a brand inside a turnip as a lantern because his soul, condemned for debauchery, was forced to wander in eternal darkness. The Irish, who arrived in the United States, found that the local pumpkins were much softer, more spectacular and easier to carve than turnips, and they changed the legend, giving life to a new tradition.

THE FAMILY OF EDIBLE PUMPKINS

Today, ornamental pumpkins have become the very icon of Halloween, but edible ones, in the meantime, have conquered the autumn tables. Among the most popular pumpkins is the legendary Hokkaido, the pumpkin of Japanese origins, truly exquisite and practical: floury, dry and highly malleable, it expresses an excellent chestnut taste and can be eaten (once cooked) with the peel! It is suitable for pies, purées, gnocchi as long as you appreciate the dominant aroma.

The classic Mantovana, with its mushroom shape and greenish skin, is the queen of tortelli. Perfect as a delicious side dish for savory dishes, it is suitable for fillings, jams and desserts.

Then there are the Delica (perfumed and dry), the Marina di Chioggia (lumpy and with an intense flavour), the Butternut (pear-shaped, perfect for baking), the Lunga di Napoli (suitable for any recipe), the Trombetta d'Albenga (elongated and twisted, perfect for sautéing) and the very strange Zucca Spaghetti (in which the pale yellow pulp is made up of long longitudinal fibers which, once cooked, resemble spaghetti). There are many varieties within the family of edible pumpkins, but let us, with a certain amount of pride, mention again the masterpiece of Piedmontese agriculture: it is the Zucca di Piozzo, a miniature version of the classic Halloween pumpkins. Crunchy and firm, it is the non plus ultra for risottos (it transforms into a delicious cream when cooked) also because its size, about 500 grams, represents the perfect dose for 4 people.


The Pumpkin Fair of Piozzo| Ph.Credits Proloco


To conclude this roundup, we want to suggest a recipe. Our favorite is 100% Piedmontese: a soup of Zucca di Piozzo with Bra sausage crumbs. The preparation is so simple as to be obvious: the pumpkin must cook for about twenty minutes before being blended. Brown the pieces of Bra sausage separately and add them to the dishes when you serve them. A rare delight.

As an accompaniment we can only recommend the Dolcetto d'Alba Doc Duchessa Lia which, moreover, goes perfectly with any pumpkin-based dish. The delicately vinous flavor with an almond finish completes the sweetness of the pumpkin and the enveloping tannins invite you to a new glass!


The Pumpkin Fair of Piozzo| Ph.Credits Proloco


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