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There’s More to Pumpkins Than Halloween Jack-O-Lanterns

Published by Kira Bloom

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Benefits and Uses for This Fall Season Produce

Wait! Don’t throw out those pumpkin guts! Ever since early Irish immigrants tossed out their turnips and started carving into pumpkins, pumpkins have served mostly for decoration. With 80% of the US pumpkin supply available in October, let’s discuss the numerous benefits of this underutilized squash.

Benefits of the Great Pumpkin

You heard me right. The pumpkin is actually a member of the squash family. Like squash, pumpkins are full of vitamin A (beta carotene), fiber, and a good dose of vitamin C. With nutrition like that, your pumpkin can do more than ward off evil, it can actual help fortify your immune system against those winter colds.

The Incredible Edible Pumpkin?

You can make more than pie with those fall pumpkins. There are a number of recipes for pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin flan and cream of pumpkin soup (see the side bar for some online recipes). In fact, early pilgrims used the pumpkin for the crust not the filling, baking a custard made of milk, eggs, sugar and spices in a hollowed out pumpkin. Even the seeds scooped out can be salted and cooked (350 degrees for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes) to make a quick and healthy snack.

Picking Just the Right Pumpkin

Fall Pumpkins come in many sizes and a number of varieties. Here are some basics to keep in mind when searching for just the right pumpkin. Look for pumpkins that seem heavy for their size. The surface should be hard without bruises, soft spots, cuts or cracks. Although large pumpkins are great for decorating they’re not so great for cooking. Larger pumpkin will have a grainy the texture, so look for the smaller sugar pumpkins. They usually range between 2 to 3 pounds.

Keeping and Cooking Pumpkins in Your Kitchen

A pumpkin will store for up to a month in a cool, dry, ventilated, location. This is especially useful since they usually vanish from the produce department shortly after Thanksgiving, allowing you to enjoy fresh pumpkin well into Christmas. The easiest way to prepare pumpkin is baking it in the oven. After, removing the seeds and fibrous material in the center, quarter it and place it skin side down. Never bake them skin side up (or in the microwave). Pumpkins are 90% water, so cooking them skin side down (or in the microwave) will steam the pumpkin and it will lose the nutty flavor it’s famous for. Because it contains so much water, you’ll also have to drain the pumpkin after it’s cooked.

Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas

With the unlimited uses for pumpkin, take advantage of this growing season. Make some pumpkin sweets for that Halloween party. Stuffed pumpkin dishes make great center pieces during the Holidays, and don’t forget the pumpkin desserts for those big Thanksgiving and Christmas banquets. Impress your friends or start a new tradition for your family this holiday season.

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