Courtesy Gammondale Farm
by Konnie LeMay
The color gives it away. The bright orange of a mature pumpkin says, “Hey, I’m laden with beta-carotene” (carrots have it, too). Research indicates that those who eat beta-carotene-rich foods may reduce risk of certain cancers and of heart and other diseases as well as some degenerative aspects of aging. Pumpkin seeds may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
A cup of boiled, drained pumpkin has only about 50 calories but packs about 20 percent of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C and a whopping 310 percent of the RDA for Vitamin A.
All good reasons to celebrate pumpkins, which a few Lake Superior communities, in fact, do.
Bessemer, Michigan, hosts the largest Pumpkin Festival; this 28th year it falls on October 14.
It started as an annual bet between locals Roy Malberg and Ray Brown about who could grow the bigger pumpkin. Roy won that first year with a 71/2-pound orange beauty. That’s a ways from the current Guinness World Record 1,469-pound pumpkin, but still a nice size. (The largest pumpkin pie weighed 2,020 pounds.)
In Bessemer, as the years went by, not only did the pumpkins get bigger (and probably Roy’s and Ray’s stories) but so did the festival itself.
There’s official judging for the biggest pumpkin grown in Gogebic, Ontonagon or Iron counties and for the biggest grown outside the area. Awards also honor smallest pumpkin, most pumpkin color, best shape, most unusual shape and heaviest. Competition features best-carved, etched or decorated pumpkins; sunflowers are judged on tallest and biggest-diameter and squash on the heaviest. Entries must be submitted by October 14 and Kim Mussatti, 906-364-3710, is the contact.
There are events leading up to the actual day of Pumpkin Festival, which is jampacked with activities like pumpkin bowling and plenty of food and item exhibits. Details can be found at 906-663-4353.
Near Thunder Bay, Ontario, the Gammondale Farm will host its 11th Pumpkinfest, which runs for six weeks starting on September 24. For a $6 entry fee to the farm, there are cartloads of activities, including a variety of mazes, tractor pulls, wagon rides, farm animals, trike trails, the Boo Barn, Pumpkin Sling Shots and Catapult, and visits on hiking trails or to an historic log house.
Some activities require a modest extra charge. Check out www.gammondalefarm.com or 807-475-5615 for details.
Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake
1-1/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter, melted
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate mini morsels, divided
3 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 can (15 oz.) canned pumpkin
4 large eggs
1/2 c. evaporated milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar in small bowl. Press into greased 9-inch springform pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 c. morsels. Microwave remaining morsels in medium bowl on 100 percent power at 15-second intervals, stirring until smooth; cool to room temperature. Or do it the old-fashioned way by melting morsels with double boiler.
Beat cream cheese and both sugars in large mixer bowl until smooth; beat in pumpkin. Beat in eggs, milk, cornstarch and spices. Remove 3/4 cup pumpkin mixture and stir into melted chocolate. Pour remaining pumpkin mixture into crust. Spoon chocolate-pumpkin mixture over top; swirl. Bake in preheated 350° Fahrenheit oven for 60 to 65 minutes or until edge is set but center still moves slightly. Cool in pan on wire rack. Refrigerate several hours or overnight before serving.
Chris Bergquist’s Overall Winner, 2001 Bessemer Pumpkin Festival