Pumpkinology 101

There are a lot of great reasons to bring a pumpkin home, beyond decorating for Halloween or making Thanksgiving pie. For instance:

  • Pumpkin is very high in carotenoids (which neutralize free radicals, those nasty molecules that attack cell membranes and leave cells vulnerable to damage).
  • It’s high in lutein and zeaxanthin (which scavenge free radicals in the lens of the eye and protect against cataracts and macular degeneration).
  • Pumpkin is loaded with lots of antioxidants and iron, zinc, and fiber.
  • The seeds are very high in protein and contain copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.
  • The seed oil is high in phytosterols, plant-based fatty acids that are chemically so like cholesterol that they can replace it in the human body—contributing to the reduction of blood cholesterol levels.
  • The seed oil is also high in essential fatty acids (EFAs), vitamin A, and vitamin E (a vitamin which acts like lutein and zeaxanthin in eliminating free radicals).

What to know about pumpkin selection: The bigger the pumpkin, the tougher the meat. This is why pie pumpkins, also called baking pumpkins, are so much smaller than the ones used for carving. But you can still cook and eat the meat of a carving pumpkin; it just won't be quite as soft.

What to know about pumpkin storage: A whole pumpkin can be stored at room temperature for up to a month, or in the refrigerator (if it'll fit!) for up to three months.

What to know about pumpkin cooking: If you're planning on cooking rather than carving the pumpkin, you don't have to go to the trouble of scooping out the inside after you remove the top. You will have to remove the seeds, but after that you can just cut the entire pumpkin into pieces, remove the skin with a peeler, and boil the pieces in water for about 20 minutes.

After the pieces have been boiled, drain the water and either mash the pieces by hand or puree them in a blender. (NOTE: save the drained water, let it cool, dilute it and water houseplants with it—they LOVE this!)

OR, you can remove the rind using the technique I first read about on www.thekitchn.com: Cut you pumpkin in large pieces. Place the pieces, cut side down, on a microwave-safe dish with a little water in it. Microwave your pumpkin until the skin can be sliced away easily. Let the pumpkin cool enough so it won't burn your fingers. Slice away the skin and chop or purée the flesh as needed.

You savvy Cook’n cooks know that besides pies, pumpkin can be used to make pudding, custard, cookies, and of course pumpkin bread. And you’ve likely made it into soup, or as a side dish for the main course of a meal.

And if you don't like the taste of pumpkin (I can’t imagine this), adding a small amount of orange juice adds a nice flavor sparkle.

What to know about roasting pumpkin seeds: Pumpkin seeds can be sprinkled with oil and other flavorings and roasted at 300° for about 30 minutes. However, most nutritional experts believe that roasting weakens a lot of the nutrients, so they recommend that the seeds be eaten raw. Whole seeds can be added to steamed vegetables, salads, cereals, and cookies, and ground seeds can be added to burgers.

What to know about pumpkin seed oil: Pumpkin seed oil can be used in recipes (it's popular in Austrian dishes) or just taken by the teaspoon or tablespoon, like other EFA oils (for example, flax seed, evening primrose, borage seed, or black currant seed oils).

So the next time you're carving a pumpkin and are tempted to just throw out the inside—don't! Save it, cook (or bake) it, and eat it instead. And if you're not into pumpkin carving, don't pass by those small specimens in the produce section of your grocery store.

Finally, if all that cutting and boiling is too much work or too time-consuming, turn to the canned variety. Now here’s a great pumpkin recipe found on one of our favorite websites, www.preparedpantry.com. The folks at our house think these are way better than the traditional pie.

Pumpkin Pie Squares

Serving size: 1


1/4 cup quick cooking oats (small batch), ½ cup (medium batch), 2/3 cup (large batch)
1/4 cup brown sugar (small batch), ½ cup (medium batch), 2/3 cup (large batch)
1/2 cup flour (small batch), 1 cup (medium batch), 1 ¼ (large batch)
1/4 cup butter (small batch), ½ cup (medium batch), 2/3 cup (large batch)
1 cup pumpkin puree, (small batch), 2 cups (medium batch), 2 2/3 cups (large batch)
1 large egg (small batch), 2 eggs (medium batch), 3 eggs (large batch)
3/4 cup evaporated milk (small batch), 1 ¼ cups (medium batch), 1 ¾ cups (large batch)
1/3 cup sugar (small batch), ¾ cup (medium batch) 1 cup (large batch)
1 teaspoon flour (small batch), 2 teaspoons (medium batch), 3 teaspoons (large batch)
1/4 teaspoon salt (small batch), ½ teaspoon (medium batch), ¾ teaspoon (large batch)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (small batch), 1 teaspoon (medium batch), 1 ½ teaspoons (large batch)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (small batch), 1 ½ teaspoons (medium batch), 2 teaspoons (large batch)
1/4 teaspoon ginger (small batch), ½ teaspoon (medium batch), ¾ teaspoon (large batch)
1/8 teaspoon cloves (small batch), ¼ teaspoon (medium batch), scant ½ teaspoon (large batch)
1/4 cup chopped nuts (small batch), ½ cup (medium batch), 2/3 cup (large batch)
1 teaspoon flour (small batch), 2 teaspoons (medium batch), 3 teaspoons (large batch)
1/4 cup brown sugar (small batch), ½ cup (medium batch), 2/3 cup (large batch)
2 tablespoons butter (small batch), 3 tablespoons (medium batch), 4 tablespoons (large batch)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. For the crust, cut the butter into the sugar, oats, and flour until crumbly. Press the ingredients into an ungreased baking pan, across the bottom and up the sides. Bake the crust for 15 minutes.
For the topping, cut the butter into the nuts, flour, and brown sugar. Set aside.
For the filling, combine all ingredients in and whisk until smooth and all ingredients are evenly distributed. Pour into the baked crust. Bake for twenty minutes and remove from the oven. Immediately, spoon the topping over the filling and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or until a knife stuck in the center comes out almost clean. Cool on a wire rack. Garnish with whipped cream.

Recipe formatted with the Cook'n Recipe Software from DVO Enterprises.

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  •   www.relish.com
  •   www.915thebeat.com
  •   www.food-hacks.wonderhowto.com
  •   www.thewateringmouth.com
  •   www.pumpkinseedoil.com
  •   www.preparedpantry.com

    Alice Osborne
    DVO Newsletter Contributor since 2006
    Email the author! alice@dvo.com

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