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Cheesy Little Pumpkins make most of minis

Recipe: Turn tiny pumpkins into fun fall side dish

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Wee-B-Little pumpkins are adorable -- and delicious. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

What do you do with little pumpkins?

Every October, these baseball-size orange orbs pop up at farmstands and in markets. They’re attractive, piled in a basket or arranged in a harvest display. But how do you eat them?

Treat mini pumpkins like what they are: Winter squash. Just about any recipe for acorn squash, for example, can be adapted to a mini pumpkin, too.

Like any vegetable, some varieties are tastier than others. (Flat, hard minis border on “decorative use” only.) For cooking, choose mini pumpkins with smooth skin and round shape; they have better texture and more flesh.

This summer, I grew a late harvest of Wee-B-Little pumpkins, grown from seed (available from JohnnySeeds.com). The 1999 All-America Seed Selection winner, this compact semi-bush dwarf pumpkin thrives in a relatively small space; the whole plant covers less than 3 feet square.

Planted in early July, Wee-B-Little has been prolific with several 3- to 4-inch round pumpkins, weighing just under 1 pound each. They’re adorable.

My original intention was to carve a bunch of mini jack-o-lanterns, but the seed cavity inside each Wee-B-Little was too small and the walls too thick.

Fortunately, they’re delicious. Mini pumpkins can be roasted, boiled, steamed, baked or mashed. Or they can be cooked and pureed for use in other recipes.

Cheesy Little Pumpkins takes advantage of their unique size and shape. It makes a fun side dish during the fall holidays. Eat with a spoon to scoop out bits of pumpkin with the filling.

Cheesy Little Pumpkins
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:
Two mini pumpkins, about 12 ounces each
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Cheesy Little Pumpkins make a fun fall side dish.

Salt to taste

¼ to ½ cup Monterey Jack or Havarti cheese

¼ cup heavy cream

Freshly grated nutmeg
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash pumpkins and core them, removing seeds and scraping out seed cavity.

Sprinkle a little salt inside each pumpkin. Fill each pumpkin loosely with grated cheese. A small pumpkin may need only 2 tablespoons; a larger pumpkin, about ¼ cup.

Place pumpkins in a rimmed baking pan. Pour cream over cheese, about 2 tablespoons per pumpkin. Sprinkle grated nutmeg over the top of the filling.

Bake in 350-degree oven for 1 hour. Cover if getting too browned. When done, cheesy custard filling will not be quite set, but pumpkin will be soft.

Serve warm with a spoon.


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RECIPE

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Garden Checklist for week of April 14

It's still not warm enough to transplant tomatoes directly in the ground, but we’re getting there.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden needs nutrients. Fertilize shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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