It is getting closer to Halloween and I’m sure you’ve noticed a plethora of pumpkins, squashes and other gourds appearing on doorsteps and in other Halloween decor. What makes those vegetables so special? Well, the original Jack-o-lantern wasn’t made from a pumpkin. In Ireland where the tradition of the Jack-o-lantern began, it was made from turnips and potatoes. According to the legend of “Stingy Jack,” these carved turnips and potatoes were believed to keep Jack and other wandering evil spirits away. When the tradition moved over to England, they began to carve large beets. And when that tradition finally made it over to America, they found the perfect gourd for the job – the pumpkin!
So why didn’t we just carve turnips and beets like the rest of them? It has a lot to do with where you live and what fruits and vegetables are in season. In the United States, the pumpkin grows fairly well in many locations and it is much easier to carve than a turnip, which made it a logical choice for our Jack-o-lanterns. This seasonal choice not only determined our holiday traditions, but it also can help us choose fruits and vegetables that are better to eat during certain times of year. The pumpkin is one of many crops that is in season during the month of October, but there are quite a few more that you can choose from to carve or to eat.
Since Texas has an overall mild climate, the harvest season is jam packed with a number of fruits and vegetables. Among the more familiar fall vegetables, you will find pumpkins, winter squash, and sweet potatoes. These heartier vegetables are staples for many thanksgiving and fall dishes. If you are looking for some produce that can be eaten raw, you may be excited to find cucumbers, radishes, and sweet peppers are in season. How about some fruits? Well, the flavorful persimmon is in season along with various pear and apple varieties. These fruits work well raw or cooked into tasty tarts and pies.
If you are able to find a local farmers market where you can find in season fruits and vegetables, you may notice some instant benefits. One of those benefits is more flavor and more nutritional value. Since this produce is local, it can be picked when it is ripest and it doesn’t have to travel far to get to you. At that ripeness, it will retain more of its vitamins and minerals giving it added flavor and more nutrients for you to use. And by shopping at local farmers markets, you are also supporting local farms and the economy of the surrounding community. Purchasing in season fruits and vegetables can also help your wallet. Since it is the normal time for these crops to be harvested, there is more of them which means bigger discounts to you! With all of the changing seasons, you will also notice that available fruits and vegetables change which means that you get the opportunity to try new recipes. If you are unfamiliar with some of our October fruits or veggies mentioned, have no fear! Since fall always makes me think of comfort food, enjoy this in season vegetable hash that will make your taste buds excited for fall!
- 1 small pumpkin (sweeter pumpkin varieties tend to be better)
- 1 large onion
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 2 small red potatoes
- 1 sweet pepper
- 1 small hot peppers (optional)
- Butter (or vegetable oil)
Prep. The hardest part about making a hash is prepping all of your vegetables.
- Preheat the oven to 400° F.
- Clean your vegetables including washing and drying both types of potatoes.
- Dice the peppers and the onion.
- Dice the hot pepper. Use as much or as little as you would like to achieve your desired spice-level.
- Peel, seed and chop the pumpkin into small ½ inch cubes.
- Cut the red potatoes and the sweet potatoes into ½ inch cubes.
- On a baking sheet, spread out the cut red potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin in one layer and roast for about 20 minutes.
- In a large skillet, melt the butter (or vegetable oil) over medium high heat.
- Add the diced sweet pepper, onion and hot pepper (optional) to the skillet and sauté until tender.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the diced pumpkin, red potato, and sweet potato to the skillet and sauté for about 5 to 8 minutes or until crisp.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
Hashes are very simple ways to enjoy local vegetables. It is also easy to personalize with any meat or additional seasonings. Make it your own and enjoy the flavor of your local produce!