In Season: Pumpkins begin to ripen in September. Because they store well, pumpkins are available all through the fall and winter.
What to Look For: Make sure to choose a variety of pumpkin that's intended for cooking, rather than for decoration. The ubiquitous field pumpkin -- the kind most commonly used to carve jack-o'-lanterns -- has watery, stringy flesh and is not recommended for eating. Sugar pumpkins and cheese pumpkins are two widely available varieties that are good for cooking and baking, thanks to their dense, sweet flesh.
How to Store: Pumpkins keep well at room temperature for up to a month. Stored in a cool cellar or refrigerator, they can last up to three months. Once cut, pumpkin pieces should be wrapped tightly and refrigerated. Use cut pumpkin within five days.
Pumpkin soup is enriched with curry powder, cream, and roasted chestnuts. The cranberry-compote garnish provides a beautiful presentation with the brilliant contrast of orange pumpkin and scarlet berries.
A pinch each of ground clove and cayenne pepper add kick to the smooth pumpkin filling, which is enriched with evaporated milk rather than cream. Sweet and spicy pumpkin seeds -- often called pepitas -- add flavor and crunch to this pie.
Cheese pumpkins are so named not for their flavor, but because their color and squat shape resemble a wheel of cheddar. Here, the pumpkin is cut into matchstick-size pieces and baked with cream under a crown of crunchy breadcrumbs until the mixture is luxuriously smooth and tender.