Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Cooking and Produce
Pumpkins can be used in many tasty ways
Janet Hackert, regional nutrition and health education specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension
Although we often think of pumpkins in terms of pie or Halloween decorations, pumpkins and pumpkin plants are more versatile than most people think.
Pumpkin greens can be cooked and eaten like spinach or collard greens. Seeds can be roasted plain, salted or with flavorings added. Pumpkin flowers are also edible. The flesh of the pumpkin can be used in a variety of cooked dishes as a good source of vitamins K and A, magnesium, fiber and potassium. Vitamin A helps maintain eye health, potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure, and vitamin K and magnesium work together with calcium and vitamin D to build and maintain strong bones. Pumpkins also provide vitamin C, folic acid, pantothenic acid and copper.
When choosing a pumpkin for eating, select varieties bred for flavor, known as pie or sweet pumpkins. These are usually smaller, sweeter and have more pulp than the types used for jack-o-lanterns. However, the larger, more watery decorative pumpkins can also be eaten. When using a pumpkin for both decoration and food, keep it safe to eat by drawing on it with non-toxic paint or markers instead of carving it.
Pumpkin can be canned, frozen or dried for later use. Can pumpkin in chunks — pureed pumpkin is too thick to can safely, and no research-based recipe or procedure has been developed. The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service has a procedure to can pumpkin or other winter squash.
To freeze, select full-colored mature pumpkins with fine texture. Wash, cut into cooking-size sections and remove seeds. Cook until soft in boiling water, steam, pressure cooker, oven or microwave. Small pumpkins can be pierced and baked whole on a tray in an oven or microwave until soft. To cool, place pan containing the pumpkin in cold water and stir occasionally. Then remove the pulp from the rind and mash. Package the pumpkin in sealable containers or bags, label and freeze until you’re ready to use it.
Last update: Monday, September 26, 2011