Featured Vegetable: Pumpkin
It’s that time of year again! There is a chill in the air and the leaves are beginning to change from a bright green to the rich yellows, coppers and reds of autumn. Along with the change of seasons comes an exciting change in seasonal cuisine. Right around this time of year, we see and hear advertisements for all things pumpkin. Every fall, pumpkin makes its way into a variety of new products, and may just be the trendiest gourd in town. From cookies and pies to soups and lattes, it seems many people can’t get enough of this ghoulish gourd.
Pick the best pumpkin in the patch!
Nothing says “autumn” quite like going to the orchard to pick a pumpkin! With a few guidelines, it’s easy to come home with a perfect pick. Whether you pick the pumpkin yourself straight from the vine, or pick one up from the grocery store or farmers market, look for ones that have at least two inches of a stem still attached. Pumpkins with a larger piece of stem stay fresh longer!1 Select a pumpkin that doesn’t have any blemishes or soft spots. Don’t worry so much about the shape! While we all love perfectly symmetrical pumpkins for our porches, the shape is not an indication of the flavor or quality.1 When you plan to cook or bake your pumpkin, the smaller “pie” or “sweet” varieties are best, as they are sweeter and have a less watery flesh. In a pinch, however, you can use a Jack o’ Lantern pumpkin with good success in the kitchen. Finally, look for a pumpkin that is heavy for its size for optimal flavor. Once you get the perfect one, you can store it in a cool dark place for up to two months.2
Prepare Pumpkin like a Pro
Don’t be afraid to make a mess. When you prep your pumpkin, it’s probably a good idea to spread newspaper over the table. Remove the stem, cut the pumpkin in half, and scoop out all of the stringy pulp and seeds. This is a fun thing for the kids to do. (Save the seeds for later!) Next, rinse the two halves of the pumpkin in cold water and place them on a cookie sheet, cut side down. Bake the pumpkin at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until you can easily pierce the flesh with a fork. Finally, once the pumpkin is cool enough to touch, pull away the flesh from the skin and puree it in a blender or food processor. Your pumpkin is now ready to either be used in a recipe, or frozen for later.1
Think Outside the Pie
There are so many different ways that you can use the pumpkin that you buy, so keep an open mind. Roast it and put cubes of pumpkin on your salad, or mix it with a teaspoon of pure maple syrup and a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg and spread it on your favorite toasted whole grain Pepperidge Farm® bread.3 Remember that you can also purchase canned pumpkin all year around. This easy pantry staple can be used in a multitude of applications and can add flavor, color and nutrition to any meal.
There are nutritious benefits in both canned and fresh pumpkin. In just ½ cup of cooked fresh or canned pumpkin, you can be sure to get an excellent source of vitamin A. Fresh pumpkin provides only 24 calories and over 1 gram of dietary fiber per ½ cooked. Because canned pumpkin is slightly more concentrated (has some of the water removed), it provides 42 calories and packs 3.6 grams of fiber per ½ cup cooked.4
Save the Seeds!
Roast the seeds of the pumpkin to make a delicious snack. Just toss the seeds from your pumpkin with about two teaspoons of olive oil (or just enough to lightly coat them) and season them as you like. Use garlic powder, paprika, or just a light sprinkle of salt to flavor the seeds to perfection. Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for about 40 minutes or until lightly golden brown. One ounce of pumpkin seeds will give you 10 grams of unsaturated fat (the good fat) and about 2 grams of dietary fiber.4
Whether you eat it canned or fresh, pumpkin is a delicious and nutritious choice. After you select the perfect pumpkin to carve for your front stoop, pick up a second one to roast and eat at your next meal!
We suggest you try this recipe from the Campbell’s Kitchen® website:
Cream of Pumpkin Soup with Cranberry Drizzle
- Pumpkins and More
- Fruits and Veggies More Matters Video Center: Using Canned Pumpkin
- 10 Ways to Enjoy Pumpkin
- National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 26