Monday, October 19, 2009

Pumpkin Season, Deer-Hunting Season

I'm not sure when deer hunting season begins, but people around here are starting to talk about it. Pumpkin season, on the other hand, is at its height.

This year, before they perished from mildew, my vines produced seven medium-size ripe pumpkins, and seven green ones. The green ones are still sitting on the patio table, in the vain hope that the season's vanishing sun will turn them orange.

The ripe ones are in the freezer, and it is of them that I wish to speak. I have in the past tried storing pumpkins and squashes in the basement. The temperature there is just right, but the mice are not. This year I decided to cook the pumpkins and then puree and freeze them.

But first, I had to kill the pumpkins, which were lined up in their orange glory on my blue kitchen counter. And as I got out the big chopping block, I began to think about deer hunting.

Compared to killing a pumpkin, killing a deer is a piece of cake. All you do is discharge a firearm at a comfortable distance and voila, the deed is done. Killing a pumpkin is more of a gladiatorial combat kind of thing, where I attack the fruit with my newly-sharpened Chinese cleaver as it hardens itself against my blows.

Bang! Bang! goes the cleaver, sounding not unlike the hunters in our woods. In my case, it takes a number of attempts before I can slaughter the thing, and even then the pumpkin, like Till Eulenspiegel, has the last laugh, as one half of it goes skittering across the counter and onto the floor.

Then comes the part where you “dress” your prey, i.e., eviscerate it, though why this should be called “dressing” I don't know. In the case of a deer, as I understand it, you make a ventral slit and more or less scoop out the innards. Dorsal or ventral doesn't signify with a pumpkin, but the scooping is really something. The inside of a pumpkin is chock-a-block with seeds, and these seeds are attached to the flesh by a gooey, stubborn, slithery mesh of orange threads.

I have tried scooping out the pumpkin's innards with a spoon. It doesn't work: seeds and goo tend to come apart suddenly and scatter everywhere. I have tried rubber gloves, to put some distance between myself and the pumpkin gore, but they don't work either. The only thing that works is my bare hands, and my fingernails. This is slippery, sticky work, and only marginally preferable to field-dressing a deer, because there is no smell.

I save the pumpkin's innards for the chickens. This ensures that the seeds, which pass undigested through their GI tracts, will eventually end up in our garden, to rise again in spring as thousands of volunteers, only a few of which I will select for the next crop.

Now comes the easy part: I chop up the pumpkin carcases roughly and steam them until they are soft. I put them in the blender and reduce them to a mush, which goes into plastic bags and in the freezer.

Bright-colored veggies are supposed to be good for you. The fruits of my labors, with a little salt and butter and curry powder, will go into soups and side dishes. They'll look nice on our plates, come winter. Now if we just had some deer meat to go with them....

4 comments :

  1. nice comparison! any time you mix it up with what you're eating i think it's good.

    which, i might add, i seldom do...

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  2. I don't like the deer part because of the one on your blog watercolor. I want it to stay right there in it's full glory. Of course, I don't live ina place where they are eating all my vegetables, etc.

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  3. Knock on wood, but so far the deer haven't wreaked havoc on our flowers or vegetables. I think Lexi and Wolfie do a good job of keeping them in the field. If I were to hunt deer, it would be for the meat, preferable for humane and health reasons to supermarket beef. But could I actually bring myself to do it? Not sure.

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  4. I used to like carving Jack-O'Lanterns until I was the one designated to scoop out the innards and save the seeds for roasting.

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