October! Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere. Rosauer’s has a bin filled with them for a few cents a pound while Wray’s has positioned a larger and more varied display next to their pretty little petunia patch for another few cents a pound. In fact, eighty percent of our pumpkin supply is available in October, and many of Yakima’s residents have taken advantage in the month of plenty.
A pumpkin is a winter squash as is the acorn, butternut, hubbard, turban, and spaghetti squash. The small sugar pumpkins are the ones typically used for cooking as opposed to the larger varieties we use as Jack-o-lanterns, many thanks to the fun-loving Irish.
The texture of the pumpkin flesh is finely grained while its flavor is mildly sweet. Like all squash, their shells are hard and difficult to pierce, and they store well for up to as long as six months. They should be kept from direct sunlight and in a temperature of ideally between 50 and 60 degrees. Cut pumpkin will last in the refrigerator if covered with plastic wrap for one or two days. It can be frozen. Cooked, refrigerated pumpkin will keep for three to five days.
Choose pumpkins that are firm and heavy for their size. Look for a hard and dull-finished (not glossy) rind. Avoid those with a soft rind or with any spots of mold or decay.
Health benefits of pumpkin
The richly-colored gourd is low fat and contains carotenes, vitamins C, B1, B6, niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, potassium, and digestion-friendly fiber.
All carotene-rich vegetables like pumpkins (actually qualifies as a fruit) have been researched and shown to protect against heart disease, many cancers, and, in particular, lung cancer. They also help against the development of diabetes (type 2).
As for the seeds, don’t throw them away but roast them instead. They are a good source of protein, iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and vitamin E. They are also helpful in reducing symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate).
Pumpkin is not associated with any food safety issues.
Wash pumpkin under cold running water while scrubbing with a vegetable brush. You may need a mild soap solution if it has been waxed or has not been grown organically. Cut it in half, take out seeds and fibrous material in the cavity.
Pierce the halves several times to allow steam to escape. Bake in an oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, 350 degrees. Top with butter and brown sugar.
Cook, puree, and top with cinnamon and honey or combine the pureed pumpkin with applesauce for a healthy dessert.
Mash them and use in bread, muffin, or cupcake recipes.
Cut into cubes and add to vegetable soup.
Tasty low-fat, low-cal pumpkin pie Winter Salads
Morton, Illinois, is home to Libby’s and is called the pumpkin capital of the world. Every year Morton hosts a pumpkin festival in September, which consistently draws over 70,000 people to their downtown location. This year the theme was “Pumpkins Across America” in remembrance of 9/11.