TIM DOMINICK / KRT Enlarge
Lots of people have jack-o'-lanterns made from pumpkins on their stoops. Why not try something different this year? Carve one of the forgotten squash or gourds from the garden. How about carving Aladdin's Turban?
Aladdin's Turban, also known as Turk's Turban, Cucurbita maxima, is named for its shape. The bottom of the squash grows bigger than the top end, and its bulging top half looks like a colorful turban. Most are orange, green, white, and yellow all mixed together. Plucked from the garden before they are mature, their fleshy insides can taste sweet, like a sweet potato. But they aren't known for great flavor when they are mature.
A turban squash can be turned into a centerpiece by adding a few candles. Find a squash that will sit level on a table with the larger end down. The squash naturally has four humps on the blossom, or top, end, and those will make perfect votive cups. If you find that the most colorful squash won't sit still, just trim the bottom to make it stay. Find four votive or tea candles to dress it up.
Use the candle as a template, and draw a circle on each of the humps. Use a sharp knife to cut away the outside skin. Grab an ice cream scoop and remove enough of the flesh to create snug spots for the candles.
A turban squash also can be transformed into a serving dish. Have a bit of hot tomato bisque or clam chowder in Aladdin's Turban. Smooth the bottom end so it will sit level on the counter, then cut off the bud end. Use an ice cream scoop, a knife, or a spoon to remove the fleshy center. You can use this bowl to hold soup or a fall bouquet of flowers. Clean out a few smaller gourds in the same way and use those to hold condiments or other items on your Halloween or Thanksgiving menu.
If you must have a pumpkin by your door, here are some decorating tips:
●Add smaller gourds to your pumpkin. A small bottleneck gourd can make a good nose, a small crown of thorns gourd can make a funny hat, small patty pan gourds look like silly ears.
●Use branches and grasses to make arms, hair, and mustaches.
●Shells from nuts or flower pods make great eyes.
●Carve an indention in the base of your jack-o'-lantern to hold a candle. Use wire to anchor it there.
●To make a pumpkin last longer, smear the edges and inside with petroleum jelly.
●Sprinkle the lid and bottom of the pumpkin with cinnamon and nutmeg for a yummy fragrance.
●Keep the seeds for a salty snack. Clean and dry the seeds. Toss them in a resealable plastic bag with a teaspoon or two of oil. Add a seasoning such as garlic salt, onion salt, or part of a package of dry ranch dressing mix to the bag, shake the seeds to coat them with the seasoning, and remove the seeds from the bag and spread them on a cookie sheet. Bake at 250 degrees for about half an hour or until they are dry.