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Recipes from the ‘punkin’

By Staff | Oct 9, 2009

Amy Solsma poses outside her shop in rural Sanborn, surrounded by the fruits of the fall harvest.

SANBORN – Nestled along Highway 18, between the northwest Iowa towns of Hartley and Sanborn, you’ll find Solsma’s Punkin Patch! Amy Solsma, along with her husband, Jay, and children Blake and Claire, harvest 65 different varieties of pumpkins each year.

Amy Solsma, who was raised on the farm near Newkirk, said she has always enjoyed gardening. Selling her family’s pumpkins was a yearly event.

In 1999 Solsma conferred with husband on where she could plant a small area where she could again grow a few pumpkins. Those few plants has grown into a thriving business, but for more than just pumpkins.

The couple’s children pick out the very best of the fruit to show at the Iowa State Fair. Recently at the Clay County Fair, they won the largest pumpkin award in the “Hard Stem Class” for the fourth consecutive year.

At the state level, when not showing their Hereford beef cattle, which, by the way are raised drug free, the kids managed to enter 26 different varieties of pumpkin and other squash. State honors this year included one division winner and four reserves.

Jay Solsma is leader of the Jolly Workers 4-H Club. “That makes me leader by default,” Amy Solsma said with a laugh. “But it’s fun.”

As far as growing the pumpkins is concerned, Amy Solsma said, “I try to keep a journal on the weather and how the pumpkins are doing.

“This year was really hard as far as having pumpkins ready for State Fair, ” she said. “With summer being so cold here, the pumpkins were really doing a lot of growing in early August. It was hard to compete with southern Iowa growers who have warmer weather.”

However, the pumpkins were right on schedule for autumn sales.

The Solsmas know their pumpkins, but they also know their popcorn.

Ruby red and blue varieties of popping corn are grown and sold here. Stopping by their gift shop, the smell of freshly popped corn wafts throughout and one is offered a fresh bag to munch on while browsing.

Locally made wine and honey, and locally grown apples, are just some of the items one can find in Solsma’s store, as well as locally crafted items.

The Clay County Fair is an especially busy time for Solsma, with customers stopping while traveling to and from the fair.

The holiday season has become popular as well. “People love to give local items. it’s become a very popular trend,” Solsma said.

When Solsma is not busy with her gardens or working in her gift shop you may find her in the kitchen. She says she loves cooking with pumpkins and squash, which, she said, are interchangeable.

“In recipes that call for pumpkin, squash can be used with the same results,” Solsma said. “My favorite recipe to share is my squash and corn soup. It sounds a little weird, but is really very good. It’s a great choice for an easy harvest supper.”

Solsma’s Patch is open Mondays through Thursdays from noon to 6 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays and evenings by appointment or by chance.

Amy’s pumpkin bread

(“This makes a large batch,” said Amy Solsma. “I figure if I’m going to have a mess it’ll be worth it. This freezes well and is good for gifts or company.”)

3 1/3 cups of flour

2 teaspoons soda

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice or nutmeg

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 1/2 cups of sugar

1 cup of oil

1 teaspoon of butter pecan or caramel extract.

Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add wet ingredients. Mix until smooth. Pour into greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Easy pumpkin

pie dessert

(“You’ll love it,” said Amy Solsma.)

3 1/2 cups or one 30-ounce can of pumpkin or squash

1 13-ounce can of evaporated milk

1 cups of sugar

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon butter pecan or caramel extract

Combine and mix well. Pour into greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Sprinkle 1 box of yellow butter brickle, or spice cake mix. Drizzled with one stick of melted butter.

Sprinkle with one cup of chopped nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until set.

Squash and corn soup

12 ounces of sliced bacon

1 onion chopped

3 ribs of celery, chopped

2 tablespoons of flour

5 cups of water

3 tablespoons chicken soup base

3 cloves of roasted garlic

2 cans cream style corn

1 butternut or buttercup squash

1 cup of Half and Half

Salt and pepper to taste

Sour cream if desired

Cook squash. Mash or use a blender to make smooth. Some of the soup may be added now to make it blend smooth.

Cook bacon and remove, drain grease and saute onions and celery until translucent. Stir in flour until blended. Add chicken soup base and water slowly and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and stir in corn, squash, bacon, cream, salt and pepper. Heat through and serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Amy’s royal

caramel corn

(Amy Solsma’s daughter, Claire Solsma, won a purple ribbon at the Clay County Fair with this recipe)

1 quart of popped corn.

2 sticks of butter

2 cups of brown sugar

1/2 cup of corn syrup

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon of caramel extract

Place ingredients, except corn, on medium heat and boil for five minutes. Remove from heat and add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Stir quickly.

Pour over popped corn and stir with salted peanuts if desired.

Bake on jelly roll pan at 250 degrees for one hour. Stir every 15 minutes.

Contact Robyn Kruger by e-mail at rangerob@hickorytech.net.

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