With the arrival of the beautiful fall colors and brisk nights, the sight of pumpkins decorating our homes is common. Capturing the magic of fall are those familiar orange pumpkins carved into Jack-o’-lanterns lighting the paths for trick-or-treaters. We usually associate pumpkins with the carving of Jack-o-lanterns; but what about cooking pumpkins? Pumpkins are a highly nutritious member of the winter squash family.
Selection of pumpkins for cooking
- Pie pumpkins flesh is sweeter and less watery which suits them better for cooking.
- Pumpkin makes a great ingredient in soups, stews, quick breads, pancakes, or pumpkins stuffed with rice, sausage and dried fruit.
- The smaller pie pumpkins are best for cooking and baking rather than the traditional carving pumpkins.
- Pumpkins that have been carved or put out for decoration should never be consumed due to the food safety risk they pose.
- When fresh pumpkins are not available or convenient, canned pumpkin can be a great alternative.
- Pumpkin seeds from any pumpkin can also be dried and roasted.
To roast the seeds, take dried pumpkin seeds, toss with a tablespoon of canola oil and a sprinkle of salt. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast in a preheated oven at 250°F for 10 to 15 minutes until lightly browned.
Fresh pumpkins provide the highest amount of nutrients and can be cooked and added to many recipes. The bright orange color of pumpkin is a giveaway that a pumpkin is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body and performs many important functions in overall health.
- Enhances vision by helping eyes adjust to light changes
- Aides in reducing the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protection against heart disease.
- Contributes to the formation of healthy bones and teeth
- Contains potassium and are rich in fiber.
- Fiber slows the digestion keeping you fuller for a longer time.
- Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.
Easy steps to cook a pumpkin
- Cut a pie pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds.
- Place pumpkin halves on a baking sheet, cut side down, and bake in the oven at about 350° F until pumpkin is soft.
- Remove from the oven and scoop pumpkin from the rind into a bowl.
- Use cooked pumpkin in your favorite pumpkin recipes–from muffins and pies to soups!