Pumpkins are for More than Making Jack O Lanterns

When we think of pumpkins, most of us think of Halloween, jack o lanterns and pumpkin pie.  However, there is a lot more to the pumpkin than that. Pumpkins are a type of squash that is native to North America.  Pumpkins are a warm-weather crop that is usually planted in early July and picked in the fall.  They are easy to grow but do require a good source of water.

Pumpkins can be cooked in a variety of ways.  Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves, and even the flowers. The stem is not.  The pumpkin when ripe can be boiled, baked, steamed, or roasted.  They can be made into excellent soups, Pie is what a lot of us think of when we think of pumpkin as a food.  In Canada and United States, the seeds are often roasted in oil and eaten as a snack food.

Green small pumpkins may be eaten in the same way as squash or zucchini.  In the southwestern United States and Mexico, pumpkin flowers are dipped in a batter then fried in oil.  Pumpkin leaves are a popular vegetable in parts of Africa.

Pumpkin seed oil is a thick, green-red oil that is produced from pumpkin seeds.  It can be used for cooking or as a salad dressing.  It is strong tasting oil.  Pumpkin seed oil contains fatty acids, such as oleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid.  The down side to pumpkin oil is that it takes a lot of pumpkins to make it.

Pumpkins are quite nutritious

The pumpkin is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene.  Beta-carotene is one of the plant carotenoids converted to vitamin A in the body

Pumpkin Nutrition Facts
(1 cup cooked, boiled, drained, without salt)

Calories 49
Protein 2 grams
Carbohydrate 12 grams
Dietary Fiber 3 grams
Calcium 37 mg
Iron 1.4 mg
Magnesium 22 mg
Potassium 564 mg
Zinc 1 mg
Selenium .50 mg
Vitamin C 12 mg
Niacin 1 mg
Folate 21 mcg
Vitamin A 2650 IU
Vitamin E 3 mg

One cup of Dried Pumpkin seed contains 745 calories.

Preserving pumpkins

Pumpkins can be dried.  Just wash, peel, and remove fibers and seeds from the cavity.  Cut the shell into small, thin strips no more than one-inch wide by 1/4-inch thick or less.  Peel the rind.  Blanch strips over steam for 3 minutes.  Drain excess moisture.  Dry the strips either in the sun or in a dehydrator until brittle.  Pumpkin also makes good vegetable leather.

Pumpkins can be canned, however the National Center for Home Food Preservation does not recommend canning pumpkin butter or mashed or pureed pumpkin.  Pumpkin cubes can be pressured canned.  See a good canning book for further details.


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