Pumpkin is one of the “deep yellow” colored vegetables from the Fruit & Vegetable Group. It is especially rich in Vitamin A needed by our bodies for good eyesight and healthy skin. Pumpkin is low in calories. It can be cut into serving size pieces, baked and served plain or turned into various sweet and savory delicious meals.
Other vegetables in this food group, which are also rich in Vitamin A, include carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash, red peppers, broccoli, spinach, collards, mustard, turnips and other greens.
Pumpkin Pickers’ Pointers
Fun squash time is here. What’s fun squash? It’s what Cinderella used for a coach and what Linus eagerly waits for in his humble patch. It’s Halloween’s grinning “Jack” and Thanksgiving’s scrumptious pie…It’s pumpkin.
Types of Pumpkins
There are two types of pumpkins. The Jumbo (or field variety) is perfect for making Jack-O-Lanterns. The sugar (or pie variety) makes delicious pies. Confusing the two creates problems—a stringy pie or a Jack-O-Lantern that’s stubborn to carve.
Jumbo – The Jumbo variety are the large pumpkins. They are 12-15 inches in diameter and usually weigh between 10-90 pounds, although larger ones can be found. The “orangeish”-yellow flesh is somewhat stringy, coarse and dry. They are not very sweet tasting either.
Sugar – The Sugar pumpkin variety is smaller. They are usually 10- 12 inches in diameter and weigh about 6-8 pounds. The yellowish- orange flesh is fine-textured and sweet. Sugars have a dense, thick wall, which makes carving Jack-O-Lanterns extra hard, and the candle can’t shine through for the dramatic “eerie” effect. Although Jumbo pumpkins can be used for making pies, the Sugars give a better flavor to the finished product.
Selecting a Pumpkin
When choosing pumpkins, whether perfectly round or delightfully lopsided, select one that is flattened on the ends. (Tipping over a lit
Jack-O-Lantern can bring disastrous results.) Look for mature pumpkins with a rich, orange color. Avoid ones that are broken or cracked. Make sure they are clear and free of soft spots and excessive scarring. The rind should be hard. Choose a pumpkin that is heavy for its size.
If you want to store a few pumpkins for later use, you might want to wait until just after Halloween. Prices on remaining supplies are generally reduced after the demand has passed. The best pumpkins last 2-3 months under ideal storage conditions. Store only blemish-free pumpkins with no signs of decay. Handle carefully. Store in a moderately cool, dry, well-ventilated place at temperatures around 50-60F, and they will keep from 2-6 months.
One pound of raw pumpkin yields ¾ – 1 cup of cooked mashed pumpkin. It takes 1½ – 2 cups cooked pumpkin for a well-filled 9-inch pie.
For each following method, cut a pumpkin into four pieces and set in pans with rind side on the bottom. Remove seeds and stringy portions.
Boiled – Boil prepared pumpkin in a covered pan with a small amount of water until tender, about 25-30 minutes. After cooking, peel, drain and puree.
Baked – Seal prepared pumpkin in foil and bake at 350F until soft, about 1 – 1½ hours. Scoop pulp from shell and puree.
Steamed – Place prepared pumpkin on a wire rack or metal colander over boiling water in a covered container. Steam until tender, about 40-50 minutes. Remove from steam, peel and puree as directed.
Fresh pumpkin puree can be used in all recipes calling for canned pumpkin. To make the puree, simply halve or quarter the pumpkin, removing seeds and stringy portions. Boil, bake or steam according to directions. Scoop softened pulp out of rind and mash well. Place mashed pumpkin into a strainer. Allow pumpkin to drain about 30 minutes. If necessary, it may be put through a sieve. If puree is too watery, gently cook on stovetop stirring almost constantly to avoid scorching, until the pumpkin cooks down to desired consistency.
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