Cream-Braised Pumpkin Scapes

It's the word "scapes" that got me. They were piled up by the kale and beets on the farmer's table, large flat green leaves with soft, hollow-looking stems and the occasional corkscrew tendril flying out like a tiny green telephone cord.

The sign said "Pumpkin Scapes $2." I love garlic scapes, so seeing that there was something called "pumpkin scapes," got me really excited.

"What do you do with those?" I asked the farmer, who jumped up seeing that I was curious about them.

"You saute them in oil or butter and they get really sweet!"

That was all I needed to hear before selecting one of the biggest bunches to take home and try.

You might be wondering, what are pumpkin scapes?

Also called pumpkin leaves or pumpkin greens, they're basically the leaves and vines that grow with pumpkins. They're totally edible and quite delicious, but can be a bit prickly to the touch.  They're covered in a bit of fuzz that can feel a little bit strange and itchy, so keep that in mind when you go to cook them.

To prep, you'll want to cut off the leaves and tender, hollow stems, discarding the long thicker bottoms. Then give them a rough chop and a quick rinse, before dropping into a pan filled with hot oil and garlic.

I sauteed them quickly at first, then, remembering the thing the farmer said about sweetness, added in a cup of heavy cream and some nutmeg, then reduced the heat to low. I let them simmer in the cream, watching it reduce and thicken, giving them a bit of a stir every so often until the leaves looked tender and dark green.

Some flour would have thickened it all further, but I like a lighter, looser version, with just slightly reduced cream and a green that still stands out. 

I dove my fork right into the pan and was thrilled by my first taste.

"These are SO good!" I shouted at Eugene, who was in the living room watching a soccer game.

I immediately regretted not buying a second or third bunch.

The taste is definitely sweet, without any of that bitterness or muddiness you get from other greens like chard, mustard, dandelion or beet greens. They're really lovely and mild, and apparently quite nutritious, with relatively high levels of iron, calcium, and vitamin C.

Not bad for something most people probably thought was meant to be discarded!

That night, they were my dinner, along with a grilled and split link of chorizo, and I've been counting down the days until Saturday when I plan to buy two or maybe even three bunches to play with.

Loved this Pumpkin Scapes recipe? Here are three other vegetable recipes you might like:

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Cream-Braised Pumpkin Scapes

1 punch pumpkin scapes
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 cup heavy cream (you could substitute full-fat coconut milk for a vegan version, too!)
1 teaspoon nutmeg (use more or less to taste)
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes (optional)
Kosher salt and black pepper

Trim off the thick ends of the pumpkin scapes, leaving only the tender hollow stems and leaves. The tendrils are also OK to eat. Chop roughly and rinse well under cold running water. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet with a top over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds before adding the pumpkin scapes. Saute in pan, stirring until all greens are coated with the oil. 2-3 minutes.
Add the cream, nutmeg, and chile flakes. Season with kosher salt and pepper, and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Let cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cream reduces slightly and the greens are tender and dark green. Adjust seasoning and serve hot.

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