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It’s the perfect soup for a chilly autumn day, especially when it’s made with ingredients straight from the garden.
To grow this warm-season plant, start your pumpkins from seeds sown directly in warm, fertile soil after the last frost date in your area. Wait until the soil temperatures have reached 60 degrees F.
You’ll get best results if you enrich the soil with a healthy dose of compost, well-rotted manure, worm castings and other organic matter before planting.
I photographed the pumpkins in this article at a local farm’s pumpkin patch, as I wasn’t growing any of my own this year. By the time you read this article, the pumpkins will have already been sold at local farmers’ markets and farm stands.
Give pumpkins plenty of water, but avoid wetting the foliage. This helps reduce fungal diseases on the foliage. Personally, I like to water at the plant roots in the early mornings, so there is less evaporation and the plant foliage has time to dry before evening.
Winter squash – like this ‘Lakota’ winter squash from my garden this summer – is a close relative of the pumpkin and enjoys the same growing conditions. Both plants need plenty of room to grow, reaching more than six feet long. In fact, this ‘Lakota’ squash grows 10 to 20 feet long. I grow my squashes and pumpkins near the edge of my garden bed, so there is plenty of room for the plants to spread.
This year, I’ve had to fight blackfly on my leaves and flowers, which I’ve tackled by releasing ladybugs in the evening, after wetting down the plants. Cool temperatures and moisture help the ladybugs stick around longer, so this is one of those rare times you’ll want a damp garden in the evening.
If you have a serious aphid or blackfly problem, you might want to release more packages of ladybugs to fight these pests. In the first stages of the pest problem, try spraying off blackflies and aphids with a sharp spray of water in the morning, and repeat as needed.
Pumpkin Soup with Sage and Italian Sausage
This soup is packed with pumpkin’s nutritional goodness, and is now one of my family’s favorite soups. Pumpkins are loaded with beta-carotene, vitamin C, fiber and potassium. In fact, a half cup of cooked pumpkin provides a day’s supply of vitamin A.
Since this soup is topped with cooked Italian sausage, I’m glad the recipe features the herb sage. For centuries, cooks have known that sage is good for the digestion, which is why the herb is often used around Thanksgiving.
The original soup recipe was from Emeril Lagasse, but I’ve adapted the ingredients. Instead of parsley, I added a pinch of cayenne, for instance.
But most importantly, I substituted canned pumpkins for the three-pound fresh pumpkin, which was supposed to be peeled, seeded and cut into half-inch pieces. That’s because I’m writing this recipe before pumpkins are ripe in the garden. So, if you’re looking for canned pumpkins “off-season,” like I was, try your store’s baking section. That’s where I found mine.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 chopped yellow onions
1 leek, washed and sliced into half rounds
1 29-ounce can of pumpkins. Or 3 pound of fresh pumpkin flesh peeled, seeded and cut into half-inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
3 bay leaves
8 cups chicken broth
1 sprig sage
½ teaspoon of dried thyme
Pinch of cayenne to taste
About a pound of fresh, bulk Italian sausage, and crumbled freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1) Melt butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and leeks. Cook and stir until soft and lightly golden, about 10 minutes.
2) Add pumpkin, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Mix well. If using fresh pumpkin, cook until it softens slightly.
3) Add chicken broth , sage and thyme. Stir to mix.
4) Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes until the pumpkin is tender and broth is thickening slightly. Remove herbs.
5) If you’ve added fresh pumpkin, use an immersion blender to puree the soup. If you used canned pumpkin, there’s no need to blend the soup.
6) Brown the sausage in a medium sauté pan. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towel.
7) Serve soup with browned sausage and Parmesian-Reggiano cheese on top.