Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Many Uses of Pumpkin

By Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD,Nutrition and Health Education SpecialistBarton County University of Missouri Extension

The most popular use of pumpkins may be for jack-o-lanterns and fall decorations, but there are many healthful ways pumpkin can be used. When eaten, pumpkin provides vitamin A, potassium, protein, and vitamin C. Pumpkin is also low in calories.

When choosing a pumpkin for cooking, choose a small pumpkin that weighs between two and six pounds. Look for one that has one or two inches of stem left. Pumpkins with shorter stems decay more quickly. Choose a pumpkin that has a rich orange color with skin that cannot be easily broken or scratched by your fingernail.

If you want your pumpkin to have multiple uses, you can first paint a funny face on it for a decoration using non-toxic paints. After the holiday, you can wash and cook it.

When selecting a pumpkin for cooking, “pie pumpkin” or “sweet pumpkin” is a good choice, but the jack-o-lantern variety can also be used for eating. For every pound of whole pumpkin, you can expect to get one cup of pumpkin puree.

To maximize the use of your pumpkin, start by removing the stem with a sharp knife. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and scrape the stringy part away. Wash the seeds in warm water and spread them out to dry. To roast, spray a pan with oil and spread the seeds thinly on the pan. Salt, or any seasoning that appeals to you, such as cheesy popcorn or cajun seasoning, can be sprinkled on the seeds. Bake in a 250 degree oven 15-20 minutes.
There are three ways to prepare a pumpkin so you can get pumpkin puree.

To bake it, cut the pumpkin in half. Place the pumpkin, cut side down on a cookie sheet, and bake at 350°F degrees until fork tender, or about an hour.

To microwave it, place the cut side of half of the pumpkin on a microwave safe plate and microwave on high for fifteen minutes or until fork tender.

For boiling, cut the pumpkin into large chunks and rinse in cold water. Place the chunks in a large pot in about an inch of water. Cover the pot and boil for 20-30 minutes until tender.

In order to make pumpkin puree, cool and peel the pumpkin. Then place the pumpkin in a food processor, blender, ricer or a potato masher to puree it.

Pumpkin puree can be used in any recipe in which you use purchased canned pumpkin. Pumpkin puree can be frozen at 0°F degrees for up to one year. If you run out of time and energy before you start the puree process remember, pumpkins can be stored for several months if kept at 50-55 degrees°F in a dry airy place.

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