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Peruvian Pumpkin Stew

While squash was consumed by indigenous peoples pretty much throughout North and South America, chilies and potatoes were strictly southern delicacies. South American Indians in the area of Brazil and Peru were eating wild chilies as early as 6500 B.C. Potatoes have their roots in the high Andes, and were possibly domesticated in Peru as early as 3000 B.C. The recipe below is from the region where potatoes and chilies got their start. It is a delicate yet flavorful dish. Though it is traditionally served with rice, the potatoes may be enough starch for you, in which case, other indigenous American fruits, like tomatoes and avocados, could be served on the side.

When preparing this dish, I find that squash is sometimes easier to work with than pumpkin, since it’s generally smaller. The last time I made it, I used half butternut and half acorn squash, and that yielded a wonderfully sweet, mellow stew. The chunks of squash and potato should be about 1-2 inches in whatever direction you choose (I love recipes that tell you to cube something that has no flat sides—bite-sized chunks are your goal here, and a vague sense of uniformity, so things cook at the same rate.) If you don’t have a kitchen scale, two pounds of pumpkin/squash chunks comes to about 8 cups. Continue reading

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Pumpkin Harvest

Autumn and winter are a time for hearty vegetables, mostly roots and tubers. It is also a great time for winter squash and pumpkins. Squash and pumpkin are among the myriad delightful foods indigenous to the Americas that became part of the Columbian Exchange.

The word “squash” comes from the Natick and Narraganset Indian word askútasquash,, which meant “the green things that may be eaten raw.” I’m just betting they were speaking of summer squash. The word pumpkin comes from pumpion, a corruption of the French pompon, or melon. Well, the pumpkin is a fruit and a distant relative of the melon, but it isn’t a melon, it’s a squash. While the difference between most pumpkins and most winter squashes seems pretty obvious to most of us, the debate still goes on in some quarters as to what is a gourd, and is a gourd a squash, and which squashes are actually pumpkins—because they’re all related, and in some differences, the lines blur. Pumpkins are even sometimes described as gourd-like squashes. But for most common usage, and for what is most generally available in stores and farmers’ markets, we know what the difference is. (That said, for many applications, winter squash and pumpkin are fairly interchangeable.) Continue reading


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