Pumpkin: Way More than Pie
Pumpkins are so versatile and a total fall necessity. We usually donâ€™t think of using pumpkins the same way we do other types of squash, but theyâ€™re actually quite similar and can certainly have applications in your everyday kitchen. Read below to learn how to get the most out of this autumn staple.
How itâ€™s grown:
Thanks to the fall pastime of visiting pumpkin patches, most people at least have a great visual of how pumpkins are grown. The timing of the planting is quite particular. Overly early planting can increase the risk of frost damage the likelihood of rotting prior to the Halloween season. Pumpkins require abundant space to grow and they are susceptible to multiple pests as well as mildew. Like almost all agriculture, growing large, mature, beautiful pumpkins requires a farmerâ€™s expertise and a little luck!
How to shop for it:Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Purchase pumpkins that are firm and heavy for their size. This indicates ideal ripeness. Smaller pumpkins are much easier to handle when prepping from the fresh state and are more likely to have consistent taste.
How to store it:
Pumpkins should be stored in a cool, dark place. If stored correctly, pumpkins can keep for up to 2 months.
How to prepare it:
- Slice both ends (stem and base) to get a flat top and bottom.
- Cut in half vertically, and scrape out seeds from each half.
- Cut into wedges/smaller pieces.
- At this point, you can peel and dice, and use in the raw state. Or you can roast the pumpkin wedges, which will cause the skin to be easily removed once cool (you can puree roasted, peeled pumpkin and freeze for use all winter).
- Make sure to save the seeds to roast for a high-fiber snack!
How to eat it:
- Fresh chunks of pumpkin can be added to pasta, chili or beef stew for color, texture, flavor and boosted nutrition.
- Stuff roasted mini pumpkins with wild rice, pecan and dried cranberry pilaf.
- Combine fresh pumpkin puree with light cream cheese, pumpkin pie spice and a bit of sweetener for a great fall dip.
- For a quick breakfast or snack, make pumpkin energy bites. Combine 1 cup oats, 1 cup pumpkin puree, 2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons protein powder and roll into balls.
- Use fresh pumpkin puree in homemade macaroni and cheese for a creamy and nutritious twist.
The rich orange color of pumpkins hint at their beta carotene content, a compound converted to vitamin A that acts as an antioxidant in cells. Beta carotene intake may be related to heart health and overall protection from chronic disease. One cup of pumpkin also contains 3 grams fiber and 564 milligrams potassium, important nutrients for digestive health and blood pressure regulation, respectively.