By Sharon Hudgins • Photographs Courtesy Sharon Hudgins
Several years ago on a trip to Austria, I discovered the Austrians’ propensity for pumpkins. Traveling through a pumpkin-growing region at the height of harvest in autumn, I saw open-air markets, grocery stores, gourmet shops, and cookware departments that featured more pumpkins and pumpkin products than I’d ever imagined …Whole pumpkins, from tiny ones small enough to nestle in the palm of my hand to giant globes that needed a forklift to move them. Bottles of pumpkin-seed oil and pumpkin schnapps. Bags of toasted pumpkin seeds and jars of pumpkin pesto. Special scrapers for scooping out the seeds and those pesky strings. Cutters for notching the edges of pumpkin shells to be used as soup bowls. Decorated pumpkins carved with elegant baroque motifs, humorous faces, and harvest symbols on their rinds. Floral arrangements with pumpkins and gourds of many sizes, shapes, and colors. Hollowed-out pumpkins used as vases for fresh or dried flowers.
And every restaurant offered at least one pumpkin dish on its autumn menu, too. At some of them you could even make a complete meal of pumpkin-flavored dishes, from soup to main course to dessert.