I’ve got the fever and the only cure is more pumpkins!
Every year, like clockwork, I get fired up for the arrival of fall and all the outdoor adventures that come with it. I’m not gonna lie to you though—mainly I am excited for the pumpkin patches and all the glorious harvest-type festivals that the season brings. I love to visit all the patches and gaze upon the abundance of the season: perfectly shaped bright orange pumpkins; greyish-blue or pure-white fairytale pumpkins; bumpy, rounded gourds and squash of every possible shape and size.
We are fortunate to live in an area with many remarkable patches to choose from. If you are truly motivated and don’t mind a bit of a drive, there are some amazing patches within a 90-minute drive from Chico. In the Chico area alone you will find TJ Farms, Patrick Ranch, Henshaw Farms and Maisie Jane’s. Hop in the car for 30 minutes or so and you can hit Julia’s Farm Stand (Dairyville), Country Pumpkins (Orland) and Max’s Miracle Ranch (Biggs). If you’re as afflicted with the fever as I am, you will cheerfully make the trek to Bishop’s (Wheatland), Hawes Historic Farms (Anderson) or Nash Ranch (Redding).
It’s only the first week of October but we have already visited Julia’s Farm Stand, Maisie Jane’s and Henshaw, and I may not stop until I’ve been to them all. It really is a sickness.
If you do patch it up this October, keep your eyes peeled for the sugar pie pumpkins—they are small in size and have lovely dark orange-colored flesh. This variety is especially sweet and flavorful, and absolutely perfect for all your baking whims. You can cut these little beauties in half, seed, gut, and then roast at 375 degrees, face down on a baking sheet for about 1–1 . hours, or until the flesh is easily pierced with a fork. Let cool and puree or mash.
Now that you have a sweet and flavorful puree, what the heck shall you do with it? Bread or muffins, soup, bars or pies (always a classic), cinnamon rolls, gratins, waffles and pancakes (make a double batch and freeze them!) and pumpkin cream cheese are just a few ideas.
How about you make some bourbon-laced pumpkin bread and smear it with a little of this pumpkin cream cheese? I am currently enjoying mine on toasted cinnamon bread, crackers and my finger.
Pumpkin Cream Cheese
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 Tbsp. maple-agave syrup (Trader Joe’s)
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 shakes of ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ginger
Mix it all together in a large bowl, set in fridge for a couple hours (if you can wait that long) and devour.