Pumpkini or Zumpkin?

We hosted Thanksgiving at our house last year, and my mom brought out some decorations to supplement the very little I had. Among these were some pretty pumpkins that dressed up our mantle nicely. After the holiday was over, the pumpkins ended up in our garden to rot. I can’t totally remember why I did that.

Anyway, last winter and spring were unseasonably warm, and the last frost was sometime at the end of March. About that time, dozens and dozens of pumpkin seeds started sprouting. Knowing pumpkins are spreaders, I picked 98% of the ones that came up (yeah, I probably have picked at least a hundred by now). I left the two biggest plants in my garden, and WOW are they big now.

One of them is producing beautiful carving pumpkins, large and round and orange. It currently has grown two pumpkins to maturity and is working on at least SIX more in varying stages of development. Apparently pumpkins usually just grow the two, sometimes grow as many as five, and rarely grow more than that. I have eight, people. Some have suggested that I pick the smaller ones, but I’m not super worried that the medium-sized ones won’t mature if I don’t. One of them is the size of a small jack-o-lantern already, and two more are cantaloupe-sized. By October, all three should be as big as the two big ones, I’d guess. The next few are more iffy, but I’d be thrilled to walk away with five pumpkins.

Anyway, this post isn’t really about the pumpkin plant. It’s about the neighboring plant, which apparently is a hybrid. Instead of pumpkins, it grows these:

Lego with pumpkini

So far I’ve gotten four out of the plant. The fourth I’ve left growing to see how big it ends up and whether it ever changes color. I doubt it will.

Anyway, I had to do something with this mystery vegetable. Could I treat it like a zucchini and make zucchini bread with it? Could I treat it like a sugar pumpkin and puree it for pumpkin bread or muffins? Could I eat it plain or would it be too tough, bitter, or tasteless?

I tried asking the Internet first, but all I really found out was that a) pumpkins and zucchini like to pollinate each other, b) you’re more likely to get a hybrid if you plant seeds from your Halloween pumpkin than if you plant store-bought seeds, and c) this particular hybrid is usually called either a pumpkini or a zumpkin, depending on which plant is the “mother.”

So it was up to me to figure out how to use my pumpkini. I figured I’d try both ways and see what the results were. First I cut the pumpkini in half.

pumpkini cross-section

As you can see, white flesh like a zucchini, but kind of hollow with the seeds and “brains” in the center like a pumpkin. Raw, it tasted, well, halfway between a pumpkin and a zucchini. Fancy that!

I peeled and deseeded each half, chopped the first half, and placed the chunks in boiling water. About five minutes later, I had this:

I took the boiled cubes of pumpkini and pureed them until they looked like this:

pumpkini puree

As you can see, it’s quite a bit runnier, if you will, than canned pumpkin usually is. I was really worried at this point by the color. Would my “pumpkin” muffins be greenish? Would anyone want to eat them? Would the extra wateriness be a problem? But after I’d added all the other ingredients, the batter was a much more appealing light tan. The muffins baked up great and super moist, and they were gobbled up (and shared with neighbors and friends) in a matter of days.

I have since used this method of preparation to make ten loaves of pumpkin(i) bread, which were even better than the muffins. Keep in mind that those ten loaves came from only TWO pumpkinis. Yikes.

Back to the original one, though. I shredded the other half like I would have done with a zucchini. This took forever, so I’m not sure I’ll do it again with such a large vegetable. I then made a chocolate zucchini bread recipe I’d tried and loved before. This too turned out great. I was worried that the firmer flesh of the pumpkini would translate into “crunchy” chocolate bread, but no shreds were discernible in the finished product.

The moral of the story is that the humble pumpkini is a very versatile vegetable. You can’t exactly saute it in oil with onions like you can with zucchini, and I wouldn’t add it to a salad raw, but if you find yourself in possession of one, the baking possibilities are many. Post a comment if you’ve had success with a zucchini-pumpkin hybrid (or if you just feel like posting a comment!). I hope that the next person like me who doesn’t know what to do with one can find this post helpful.

Busting boredom

My oldest, Lego, has always been very social, and he’s always preferred for someone else to entertain him. I remember getting frustrated that he’d fuss, even as a little baby, if no one was looking at him or doing anything interesting for him to watch. Now that he’s six, it’s not much different. If he’s not completely engaged in an activity at every moment of the day, he complains about being bored. Often, we’d come home from the park or some other really exciting activity, and the moment he walked in the door, he’d say, “Mama, I’m bored.”

My response is always the same. First I tell him it’s not my problem and he needs to figure out something to do himself. Inevitably he tells me he can’t. So then I tell him I have a long list of chores to do if he wants to ask me for ideas. I will suggest a few to give him an idea. But even that doesn’t work for long. During the summer, I was fighting him over boredom five or six times a day.

And I saw right through him. Each complaint of boredom was a thinly veiled request for more screen time. See, Mama? I’m SO VERY BORED that I NEEEED to play another computer game! Maybe if he was pathetic or annoying enough, he thought, I’d cave.

I didn’t. But it didn’t make any difference.

One day a couple of weeks back, I’d had enough. I lost it with him. I was tired of being the screen-time police and the entertainer. I had enough on my plate to deal with those things too. We had a very embarrassing incident where I went visiting teaching and the boys were absolutely out of control. When I told them afterward how disappointed I was, they said, “But we were BORED.” Keep in mind that the appointment had been half an hour and I’d let them each bring a toy.

I snapped. I yelled. I cried. And then I came to myself and prayed and thought a lot about how to really solve the problem. A little parable came into my mind, and I shared it with Lego:

Me: “Once upon a time, there was a little candle who was afraid of the dark. He was so scared of the dark that he never, ever wanted to be somewhere without lights on. So he turned on lights all the time, in whatever room he was in. He even slept with a night light on at night.”

Lego: “Why didn’t he just light his own head?”

Me: “That’s a good question. He didn’t know how. His mom tried to teach him, but he didn’t really need to, since he could just turn on the lights, and that was easier. But then one day, the power went out. The house was really, really dark. His mom quickly lit her own flame, but she had work to do in other rooms of the house, and the little candle couldn’t always be with her. Suddenly he found himself in a room in the dark, all alone. He didn’t know what to do. He felt really scared. He cried. And then he remembered that his mom had told him that HE could light his flame too. He tried and tried, and finally, his flame burst to life! He was so happy that he could go anywhere he wanted now and not worry about turning on lights. He never felt afraid of the dark again.”

Lego: “I think I know what the fire is. It’s thinking of something to do.”

Me: “You’re right. And turning on the lights is like playing computer games, watching movies, and needing Mommy to entertain you. It’s fun while you’re doing it, but it doesn’t make you any better at lighting your own fire when you can’t do it anymore.”

He seemed to listen and understand, even though he didn’t seem to know how to “light his fire.”

After lunch we drove into one of the nearby canyons to find a secluded spot. I had each of us bring a towel and set it down in our own thoughtful place. Lego chose his first, and then Duplo, and then me. None of us could see each other, but we were all nearby enough to have a conversation if we needed to. The object of the game was to sit quietly and notice or think about things. After one minute, we’d meet back together and talk about what we’d seen or thought about. I told them that sitting quietly would help them to learn to light their flame.

Lego started freaking out almost immediately because he couldn’t see me. Duplo started freaking out soon afterward because there were apparently bugs all around where he was sitting. I made them stay for one minute, and then we met up together to discuss what we’d seen and thought about. The first time, they had nothing to contribute except their relief that it was over. I pointed out a nearby rock that appeared to have a fossilized plant in it. I showed them the water-skimmer bugs on the placid stream nearby. I showed them a dragonfly and some Mormon tea plants. They were amazed that I’d seen so many interesting things in such a short time and wanted to try again.

The second time went better, except that they both noticed that there was a playground nearby and wanted a go at it. I worried, honestly, that the message had been missed, but I took them home that afternoon hoping something would be different.

And you know what? It has been WORLDS different. Once in a while, Lego will tell me that he has been sitting quietly and trying to light his flame, but he just can’t think of anything to do. I don’t mind giving him ideas in this case because he’s tried. Most of the time, though, he just finds things to do. The boys have been playing more creatively. They’ve also been making more messes and fighting more, but that’s just what happens when they are playing instead of waiting to be entertained.