Pumpkin

This post was researched and written by my Mentee, Ashley Langston. Check back each month for more posts by her.

Background Info:

  • Pumpkins are a type of squash in the Cucurbitaceae family, and the cultivar originated in Mexico approximately 10,000 years ago.
  • The modern day version of the Jack-O’lantern is based off of the Irish myth of Stingy Jack and the Jack O’Lantern. Using pumpkins for Jack O’Lanterns became popularized by Irish immigrants who came to America in the 1800’s.

Health Benefits:

  • The bright orange color of pumpkins come from a high beta-carotene content, and in the body, beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A.
  • High in dietary fiber.
  • Good source of vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and folate.
  • The seeds, pepitas, are high in protein, fiber and other nutrients. They may be eaten with or without the hull, and roasting or drying are popular methods of preparing them.

Nutrition Information: (1 cup, cubed)

  • Calories: 30
  • Fat: < 1 gram
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 8 grams
  • Fiber: 1 grams
  • Sugar: 3 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 grams
  • Sodium: 1 milligram
  • Vitamin A: 2650 IU
  • Vitamin C: 12 milligrams
  • Calcium: 23 milligrams
  • Iron: 1 milligram
  • Folate: 21 micrograms
  • Potassium: 395 milligrams

Taste:

  • Sweet

Season:

  • Fall and Winter

Choose:

  • Firm pumpkins, that have a slightly hollow sound when gently knocked on.
  • No soft spots or bruises.
  • Firm bases.
  • Do not carry a pumpkin by the stem, as it can break off and damage the pumpkin.

Store:

  • Cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
  • Do not leave cut pumpkins outside if there is extreme heat, a threat of frost, or rain.
  • May be frozen for up to 1 year in a non-metallic container. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
  • Pumpkin may be canned using a pressure canner, making sure to follow recipe directions carefully.
  • Pumpkin may be dried using a dehydrator and low oven, and kept in an air-tight container.
  • Pumpkin may also be used in chutneys, butters, and preserves. These items cannot be pressure canned, and may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Cook:

  • Pumpkin rinds range from thick to hard, and peeling the pumpkin may be challenging.
  • To bake: Cut pumpkin into quarters with the rind on. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour, or until fork tender.
  • Steaming or boiling: Cut pumpkin into chunks, and steam or boil until fork tender.
  • Make sure to scoop out the fibers and seeds beforehand.
  • Once cooked and cooled, the rind may be peeled off or the flesh scooped out.
  • The cooked flesh may be used as is, mashed, or pureed.
  • Pepitas may be seasoned, and roasted or dried for a healthy snack.

Serve:

  • Add cooked and peeled, cubed squash to salads, casseroles, soups, stews, and stir-fries.
  • Cooked pumpkin makes a great main dish if stuffed and baked with vegetables, rice, and ground meat.
  • Pumpkin is a popular pie filling, and may be used in several desserts.

References:

 

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