On my front porch, there are three sad looking Jack O'Lanterns and one large pumpkin hanging out from Halloween. If you've got pumpkins too, don't toss them into the trash. There’s still a lot you can do with your fall pumpkins!
Pumpkin is somewhat of a magical character in menus. It can be savory, sweet, or just give a health boost to a recipe without even knowing it’s there. Cinderella certainly knew how versatile a pumpkin could be!
Like many dark orange vegetables, pumpkins are jam packed with a plant form of vitamin A called beta carotene. At only 50 calories per cup, this true super hero of nutrition is a great source of potassium, vitamin A, and fiber. Dark orange vegetables like butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin can meet your full day’s Vitamin A needs in only one half cup serving. Canned pumpkin has no added sodium and requires no cooking. You already know there’s pumpkin flavored everything, but there are lots of ways you can use real pumpkin.
So how can you tell whether it’s decorative or edible? With more than 40 varieties, most pumpkins are actually edible, but can vary in their flavor and texture. Jack O’Lantern pumpkins are developed more for size and shape, not taste. Complaints about cooking that variety include that it can be flavorless and watery. As long as it’s not a decorative gourd (which really contains no flesh) you can try to use pumpkins you’ve already spent money on. Don’t try using a pumpkin though that you’ve already carved and sat outside with a candle in it.
Whether meal or snack, there’s a pumpkin recipe that will fit. If you take time to make pancakes or muffins from scratch, pumpkin is a super easy, tasty edition. For more savory options utilize pumpkin puree for a thickener for soup or chunks of pumpkin in a chili.
If you have little ones at home you can make an ooey, gooey mess having kids sort through the pumpkin guts for the precious seeds. Remove as much of the pumpkin strings as possible. Put about 4 cups of water on to boil. Add the seeds and boil for 10 minutes. Drain and spread on a clean kitchen towel to dry. Seeds usually toast best if you toss them with a little oil or melted butter. After heating the oven to 250 degrees, spread on a shallow pan or cookie sheet and place in heated oven. You will need to toast the seeds for about 35 to 45 minutes. Stirring every 10 minutes can help them toast evenly.
You don’t necessarily have to remove the skin before you tackle roasting the pumpkin. Give your pumpkin a very through bath using dish soap. After you’ve gutted the pumpkin you can cut it into large chunks which can be roasted, microwaved or boiled. Roasting takes the longest time at up to 60 minutes, microwaving or boiling will take about 10 to 15 minutes. You can also use a slow cooker but it will take about three to four hours to get rid of the crunchy bite of uncooked pumpkin.
Pumpkin puree can be used for all sorts of dishes. To make pumpkin puree, you simply have to scoop the flesh from the skin after cooking and then run it through a blender or food processor. You will get roughly 1 cup of puree for every pound of pumpkin. Make it easy by freezing the pureed pumpkin in 1 cup servings. It will last about six months in the freezer and a week in the refrigerator.
If you think you don’t like squash, but you like pumpkin pie you might be in for a surprise. Canned pumpkin is typically made using blends of butternut, hubbard, and other squash as it is less stringy and more flavorful than pumpkin alone. The term pumpkin can be used loosely to include over forty different varieties of pumpkin and squash.
And if you don’t want to eat your pumpkins? Toss the pumpkin somewhere where it can grow in the spring. Squash family plants don’t like to be disturbed so be sure to toss it in a spot where it can break down, release it’s seeds, and turn into a glorious vine in the spring.