Plenty Pumpkins In Myra’s Patch

Myra Lewin owns Durga Farms on 4.3 acres in Anahola, and grows food using sustainable and permaculture techniques. Lewin, once a board member of Hawaii Organic Farming Association, became a vegetarian more than 30 years ago.

“She had to learn how to grow her own food back then because it wasn’t the norm,” says Vanessa Massey, who is the farm manager and has worked with Lewin for 10 years. The two first worked together on Lewin’s farm on Maui, which specialized in figs.

Evolve Naturally and Hale Pule, Lewin’s businesses, improve health and manage weight through yoga retreats and Ayurveda, the traditional Hindu system of medicine, which is based on balancing bodily systems and uses diet, herbal treatment and yogic breathing.

Lewin wrote two books. Freedom in Your Relationship with Food: An Everyday Guide ($12.95) is designed to break unhealthy eating cycles and teaches people to respect what they put in their bodies. Simple Ayurvedic Recipes ($12.95) is a companion cookbook with simple, healthy, vegetarian recipes, tips and an outline of the beginning stages of diseases and how to heal. Both are available separately or as a holiday gift set ($44.95). The gift set comes with Triphala tablets, which aid in digestion.

What’s growing: Aalii seedlings (native Hawaiian shrub), apple banana, ashwagandha root, asparagus, gotu kola (Brami), kale (curly and lacinato), pumpkin, shatavari root

“ISLAND MUTT” PUMPKIN

“I call them Island Mutt pumpkins,” says Massey. “I think they’re a mix of kabocha and European squash. We have a wasp in Hawaii that stings the fruit, and these are a variety that resists them.”

Island Mutts have a deep gold, creamy interior that’s sweet and full of seeds, which can be planted in home gardens. Massey says you don’t need to peel the pumpkin before cooking because the skin is smooth and tender enough to eat. Pumpkins are a prolific crop, and a medium-sized one can make up to eight meals. They are considered a winter squash because they are harvested in late summer and early fall, and keep throughout the winter.

Season: Island Mutts take six month to go from seed to table. On Kauai, they are harvested between September and June. Durga farms expects to sell them year round.

What to look for: Select pumpkins that are hard, heavy and free of soft spots. External skin blemishes do not compromise the integrity of the flesh. Stems should be attached, otherwise bacteria gets inside and spoils the pumpkin.

Storage: Store on a counter out of direct sunlight. Massey has stored Island Mutt pumpkins this way for up to six months.

Tip: “If you leave pumpkins in the field until the stem is dry, the pumpkins are of a much higher quality,” says Massey. “If you let them sit in the sun for a couple of days before you bring them in, they’ll be sweeter.”

Preparation: It may seem expensive to pay $11 for a medium sized pumpkin, but they are worth every penny. I used my pumpkin in four meals: the soup recipe on this page, a kale and caramelized onion tart, ravioli (made with won ton wrappers) and a Thai coconut soup. The easiest way I have found to cook pumpkins is to cut them in quarters and roast them. Make the cut just to one side of the stem, if you can’t break it off. Cut the halves in half and rub the quarters with oil. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until tender. Cool and use in pies, cakes, sweet bread, soups, stews, tarts, risotto and custards. Pumpkin pairs well with olive oil, coconut butter, butter, cream, ghee, sage, rosemary, garlic, cumin, red chili, miso, feta, Fontina, Gruyère, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, onions, apples, pears and quinces.

Health benefits: A cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which aids vision, particularly in dim light, according to the National Institutes of Health. Pumpkin is an often overlooked source of fiber, but with 3 grams per 1-cup serving and only 49 calories, it can keep you feeling full for longer on fewer calories.

Durga Farms’ produce can be found at: Papaya’s Natural Foods & Cafe, Healthy Hut or wholesale from the farm. Call 344-3634 or email info@halepule.com. For information about Lewin’s books, yoga retreats and Ayurvedic healing, visit
HalePule.com.

PUMPKIN CARROT SOUP

This recipe is from Lewin’s book “Simple Ayurvedic Recipes.” Warm spices such as ginger, cumin, coriander and cinnamon add unique flavor to this rich soup. It’s a simple, delicious meal for cool, winter days. Makes four servings.

* 2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
* 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
* 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated or powdered turmeric
* 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
* 1 teaspoon coriander powder
* 1 teaspoon cumin powder
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
* 3/4 teaspoon mineral salt
* 4 cups chopped pumpkin
* 3 cups chopped carrots
* sprouts (optional)
* water

Heat ghee on medium heat and add spice. Cook until the aroma comes up. Add pumpkin and carrots and stir to coat. Add water to one-third the level of the vegetables, stir and cover with a lid. Reduce the heat and simmer until slightly soft. Remove from heat and cool enough to put into blender. When slightly cooled, blend half or all of the vegetables in their own juice. Add additional liquid (water or herbal tea) to obtain the consistency you prefer. Add the sprouts when serving.

Tip: Avoid blending the vegetables when too hot or the mixture will explode.

Marta Lane is a Kauai-based food writer. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.

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