Somethin’ About Pumpkins
Special contribution written by Hunter Meakin, intern with Solmaz Institute Dietetic Internship of Lenoir-Rhyne University:
Pumpkins are a healthy food that is under utilized. Back in ancient history, Native Americans used pumpkin in their everyday diet. We can take a few lessons Native Americans and add pumpkin in our diets.
Nutrition Content of Pumpkin
Pumpkins are a type of winter squash. They contain high amounts of the antioxidant, beta carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is good for our vision, skin and the immune system. In addition, pumpkins contain different B vitamins, such as folate, niacin and thiamin. B vitamins aid in tissue repair and help improve the cardiovascular system. Pumpkins are also full of fiber and low in calories. One cup of cooked pumpkin contains 49 calories, 2 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams of fiber.
The most common pumpkins that are seen in the Fall are called Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins. These types of pumpkins are usually used for decoration. They have a high water content, which makes them harder to use for cooking. However, it is okay to substitute these for other types of pumpkin in recipes. The best type of pumpkin for cooking is called a pie pumpkin because of its sweetness. When selecting a pumpkin, avoid soft spots, blemishes and bruises.
Pumpkins can be used in a variety of dishes such as pies, soups, etc. Try adding pumpkin to oatmeal, muffins, pancakes and yogurt to spice up your breakfast. Throw roasted pumpkin on a salad to add additional health benefits. Don’t be scared to get creative with your pumpkin recipes!
Enjoy the Taste of Pumpkin
There are many ways that pumpkins can be cooked- baking, microwaving boiling and pureeing:
When baking a pumpkin, cut the pumpkin in half and throw away the stem and pulp. Save the seeds to bake later. In a baking dish, place the two halves faced down and cover with aluminum foil. Bake in a 375°F oven for 90 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender. After the pumpkin is baked, scoop out the insides or just peel off the rind. Microwaving the pumpkin is a good method if you are short on time. Cut the pumpkin in half and discard the insides. Place the pumpkin in a microwavable dish and cook on high power for 10 to 15 minutes.
Another method for preparing pumpkin is pureeing it. Place cooked pumpkin in a blender or food processor until a smooth consistency is reached. Mix for 2 to 3 minutes and the pumpkin is ready to be added to a pie, cake, dip, bread, etc. or it can go in the freezer.
Pumpkins can be stored for up to two months if they are stored properly. Store in a cool dry space that is around 50°F.To make it last until the holiday season, try freezing pumpkin for longer storage. To freeze pumpkin, cook first then make sure it has cooled before placing in a container or freezer bag. Be sure to label and date the container or freezer bag. To ensure the best quality of the pumpkin, do not store longer than nine months.
A fun thing to do with the family is to bake pumpkin seeds together. It is very simple to do and the seeds taste great! Before baking the pumpkin seeds they all must be scooped out and rinsed with water to separate the seeds from everything else. Prepare a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 325°F. Coat the seeds with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake the seeds for twenty-five minutes, checking and stirring every ten minutes. They make for a great, tasty snack!