The Long Island Cheese Pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata) is one of the oldest pumpkin varieties cultivated in America. Well suited for the region’s climate, it is an invaluable part of Long Island food history, culture, and tradition, and a delicious choice for many types of cooking.
In the 1800s, cookbooks and farmers almanacs in the Long Island Sound frequently cited the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin as a regional favorite, and in 1807, Bernard McMahon introduced the pumpkin to the commercial market, and was promoted in the 1800s as the quintessential variety for making pumpkin pie. It has light burnt sienna-colored rind, a distinctive stem, and flesh that is raw sienna-colored, dense, sweet, earthy, and savory. It is very versatile and most parts of the plant are edible – shell, flesh, seeds, and flowers. Ripe flesh can be boiled, baked, steamed, pickled, or roasted, and enjoyed in soups, purees, desserts, preserves, pasta, and stews.
Its pumpkin seed oil can have savory flavor notes of sesame, roasted mushrooms, or pistachio, and goes great on salads, soups, and vegetable dishes. Another culinary use of pumpkin is the growing demand for seasonally infused American craft beers. Pumpkin beer has a long history in New England: when colonists first settled America, where pumpkins grew plentifully and had a high enough sugar content that they could be added to the mash and fermented.
The seed of the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin was available through seed retailers up until the 1960s, but then it began to disappear. Even farmers on Long Island were no longer saving seeds. A regional seed bank (Long Island Seed Project) was established to conserve the genetic resources of Long Island. Today, the Project restores varieties like the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin suited for the local culture and ecological agriculture systems, and educates farmers and consumers on breeding techniques and seed saving.