Charlie Brown wasn’t the only one in search of the great pumpkin — Every fall hundreds of thousands of us make our annual pilgrimages to pumpkin patches across the state. No longer are we in search of the pumpkin that’s perfectly orange and round, as there are now so many unique shapes and types to choose from. From green and speckled to blue, red, white, bumpy, warty, and there are so many to choose from. There are Pumpkins that look like wheels of cheese, and turbans. There’s even a Cinderella pumpkin. There are those for eating, those for carving and those for decorating.
Unlike apple picking season when the weather can still be quite warm, as we enter the month of October we’re often met with a crisp chill in the air. We don our sweaters and jackets and celebrate the season that makes New England so wonderful and beautiful. Many local pumpkin patches have fall-related activities, offer tractor rides, sell apple cider, hot cocoa, donuts and all sorts of assorted treats. The following farms are local favorites.
Can’t get enough pumpkin? We have to give a shout-out to Sunny Daes who makes our all-time favorite Pumpkin Ice Cream. They have locations in Westport, Fairfield, Stamford and Trumbull.
Jones Family Farm—Shelton
The Jones family calls their patch Pumpkinseed Hill and it delivers on its name. Every year, they create a theme for their farm-based, fall amusement scene: handmade playsets little children can scale, photo stands, farm animals, hayrides, and a corn maze on weekends (both the maze and hayrides are a couple dollars/person). They've even got a little stage set up for performances featuring...your children! Endless varieties of decorative gourds (and ones you can eat, too) as well as the pumpkins. Purchases are by the pound, but there's also a flat rate deal for whatever one person can carry. You can take a hay wagon ride or meander through the corn maze (fees may apply for some of the activities). During the weekend before Halloween, there's a UNICEF Family Festival to raise money for the charity. Pumpkin season starts at the end of September, but call "Farmer Jones" in the morning to check on crop conditions.
Silverman's has pumpkins, cider, donuts, and decorative everything within just a few steps of the parking lot. Enjoy live music and fresh kettle corn on most weekends. Silverman's animal farm will amuse the kids before or after you've picked pumpkins. If you want to linger, but aren't feeling the petting zoo, go late in the season when they run scenic hayrides through the orchards on weekends (after apple picking is completed). After the hayride, you can grab lunch at one of the food trucks that arrive on site. Silverman's also gives away thousands of pumpkins each year — if you can guess your pick's weight within 2 ounces.
Warrups is a great, small family-run farm located in the heart of Redding and celebrates the season without all the hoopla of the bigger farms. Here you can actually pick your pumpkin off the vine and go for a hayride, as well as enjoy some cider, seasonal squash, and Warrup's brand of maple syrup. Open weekends only in October, plus Columbus Day.
Blue Jay Orchards—Bethel
Blue Jay offers a big pumpkin patch and wagon rides through the orchards on weekends. You can push your pumpkins around the patch in big, orange wheelbarrows. Afterward, get yourself into all sorts of trouble in Blue Jay's busy bakery, filled with homemade pies, cookies, loaf cakes and, of course, cider donuts and fresh apple cider. Check their website for the start date on the pumpkin patch.
Castle Hill Farm—Newtown
Castle Hill has a pumpkin patch, an impressive 7-acre corn maze, and offers close encounters with goats and cows late September through October. This third generation, former dairy farm is open for pumpkin picking from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Enjoy hayrides on weekends, pony rides, and, occasionally, live music. Fresh eggs and a variety of produce are available at the farm stand (cash and checks only).
Established in 1925 by first generation immigrants from Czechoslovakia, Plasko's is small in size, but packs a lot of pumpkin-y punch into that plot. You'll find the (pre-picked) pumpkins you need, plus a corn /maze, mums, farm animals, antique tractors, and arguably the BEST apple cider donuts in the county. Kids can enjoy a 4.5 acre corn maze (!) too!
Fairview Tree Farm—Shelton
Established in the mid 1800s, this farm celebrates fall in same way the big farms do, just on a more intimate scale. Everyday in October from 9-5, you can pick your own pumpkins, feed the goats and rabbits running around, and hop on for a 1-1/2 mile hayride. You can even plan a party at the farm with your own private picnic spot. On the weekends, you can check out the popular night time Haunted Hayride and Haunted Trail; just be sure to check the schedule for exact days and hours.
Sam Bridge Nurseries—Greenwich
Nestled in bucolic back country Greenwich, Sam Bridge Nursery offers free hay rides out to their pumpkin patch. But, it’s not just any hayride, cruise past pumpkin displays based around literary themes and popular culture. Make sure to check their calendar for other awesome fall classics like pumpkin painting and scarecrow building.
Established in 1713 (you read that right!) Sherwood Farms has been harvesting pumpkins for more than three decades. Open only on the weekends, this spot has a hayride available as well. Make sure you also leave some time to check out their market that is stocked with seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Savory Pumpkin Pasta
This can be made as a veggie or knife wielding carnivore dish!
12 oz penne pasta
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree or equivalent of FRESH Pumpkin Puree
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 of a white sweet onion. diced
1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 15 oz can white beans, rinsed and drained such as Cannellini beans
4 oz fresh arugula
1/2 cup crumbled feta
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
salt and pepper, to taste
Optional: 4 large Sausage links of your choice
Cook pasta according to instructions. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, sauté onion, garlic, and spices until translucent. IF you prefer a more substantial option, sauté sausage of your choice and add to mixture.
Add pumpkin puree (either canned for convenience or fresh) and beans and simmer on low until heated through...If too thick, add chicken or veggie stock to thin.
Once pasta is done cooking, remove sauce from heat and mix in pasta, feta, arugula, and olive oil. Top with roasted pumpkin seeds to serve.
Oven Roasted Sugar Pumpkin Bisque
Recipe courtesy Sea Crest Hotel
Recipe yields 4 hearty portions
3 pounds peeled, skinned and de-seeded sugar pumpkin flesh
3 large shallots
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon chili flakes
2 bunches fresh thyme
4 fresh bay leaves
1 bunch fresh sage
4 teaspoons soft goat cheese
3 teaspoons toasted pepitas( hulled pumpkin seeds)
2 teaspoons pumpkin seed oil
4 small pumpkins, top and seeds removed
2 large carrots
2 stalks celery
1 each celery root
2 large parsnips
1 large Spanish onion
Fresh cracked black pepper
½ gallon chicken stock
Begin by rubbing the inside of the 4 small pumpkins with soft butter and cinnamon, place in 350 degree oven and roast (with covers/tops of pumpkins) cook approx. 20 minutes or until the pumpkins begin to get color and begin to soften, do not cook until completely cooked thru, these will be used for serving vessels and will need to have strong walls and bottom in order for the soup not to leak out. Reserve and keep warm for serving.
In a large stock pot, begin sautéing the celery, celery root, onions, carrot, garlic in olive oil, when tender add the pumpkin meat , chili flakes and chicken stock( the thyme, sage and bay leave will need to be wrapped in cheesecloth or butchers twine to create a bouquet garni) add the bouquet garni and simmer the soup until all vegetables are fork tender, approximately 45 minutes, then remove the bouquet garni and purée the soup smooth, season with sea salt and cracked pepper, then ladle into roasted pumpkin bowls and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil and crumbled goat cheese, enjoy with a buttery chardonnay.