Every year, I look forward to the fall. Partly for my birthday celebrations, but mostly for the food! Ask anyone who knows me; they’ll tell you I am of the pumpkin persuasion. Simply meaning, come October I fall prey to many delicious pumpkin dishes, including pumpkin muffins, pumpkin soup, baked pumpkin, pumpkin pie and just about any other seasonal pumpkin dish you can think of.
Pumpkins are native to North America where they have been used as food for thousands of years. In the US, approximately 1½ billion pounds of pumpkins are grown each year. They can range in size from very small (less than a pound) to gargantuan (over one thousand pounds!). Available canned, frozen and fresh, pumpkin is harvested in time for the holidays but is available year-round. While frozen and canned pumpkin are certainly good choices, most folks don’t realize how simple it is to prepare fresh pumpkin. Here’s what I do:
- Purchase the little sugar-pie pumpkins (my favorites).
- Preheat your oven to 425°F.
- Cut off the stem ends, wash the pumpkins, cut them in half, and scoop out the seeds but don’t throw them away! You may want to roast the seeds later for a fun treat.
- Lay the pumpkins, cut side down, on an oiled baking dish. Cover with foil and bake until tender, about 30 to 45 minutes.
- Cool, then scoop out the filling and mash it up. You can use a food processor for this, if desired. Remember, two cups of mashed, freshly cooked pumpkin is about the equivalent of one regular-sized can.
Before you get started with your pumpkin recipes, remember to never use your carved out Jack-o-Lantern for food! It’s not very fresh and sanitary (candle wax, anyone?) plus larger pumpkins don’t have the best flavor. They can be stringy and watery and are best for decoration and carving. For cooking, choose the smaller varieties. They are sweeter and are great for baking. And, you can substitute pumpkin one for one in any recipe calling for mashed sweet potato or varieties of winter squash such as butternut or acorn.
This fall, plan on pumpkin! Here are some great ways to start:
Are you a member of the pumpkin persuasion? Got an idea or a recipe? Let me know!