It’s that time of year where everywhere you go, you’re bound to run into some pumpkins.
They can be found in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors, and can be used in various ways for the autumn season.
Pumpkins can be carved and decorated for Halloween, used as fall décor, or served as part of a meal.
In fact, they are quite versatile and can be used in a variety of food preparation and cooking methods.
Pumpkin can be prepared sweet or savory, and pumpkin seeds can be eaten as a snack or added to foods as a crunchy topping for a nutritional boost.
Of course, when we’re talking about cooking with pumpkin, we’re referring to the edible kind.
The ornamental pumpkins are the ones you would carve for Halloween, and are not best for eating.
They usually have a watery texture and don’t have much flavor.
The seeds, however, are definitely edible, so be sure to save those.
Culinary pumpkins, as implied, are best for cooking and baking.
While the store may simply label them as “pumpkin” within the produce section, there are a number of varieties good for eating, including baby bear, Cinderella, blue doll, and others.
They are smaller, less stringy, and have a sweet flavor.
Cooking with fresh pumpkin calls for it being pureed in most recipes.
While the canned pumpkin puree is great for baking, pureeing fresh pumpkin is more versatile and can be used in nonbaked dishes, too.
They are a low-carb food, and packed full of vitamins and minerals.
A fiber-rich food, adding pumpkin to your diet can help improve cholesterol levels and support healthy digestion.
Fiber-rich foods also help to manage blood sugar levels and help you feel fuller longer. Steamed or roasted, pumpkins can be served as a side dish; they make great soups and can be baked into muffins, pies, and breads.
They can even be used in place of other winter squash, such as butternut, or even sweet potatoes.
Pumpkins are a great source of vitamins A and C, which have many great benefits for the body.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), vitamin A supports vision, cell growth, and supports healthy immune function, which is great for the cold and flu season that is prevalent this time of year.
Vitamin C is essential for muscle and collagen formation.
Vitamins A and C also are antioxidants, which scavenge free radicals in the body helping to prevent and to protect the body against heart disease, cancer and other health disparities.
An article in Women’s Health Magazine recommends giving your breakfast a boost by adding pureed pumpkin to your oatmeal or adding a scoop to your morning smoothie or pancake batter.
Do the same for your favorite sauces for a nutrient boost.
Pumpkin seeds are just as beneficial. They contain healthy fats, are good for brain and nerve function, and provide protein, which aids in muscle development and cellular growth. Seeds also contain zinc, magnesium and copper. NIH says that these minerals are necessary for recovery, energy production and metabolic processes. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top of your yogurt, oatmeal or just eat them alone.
Looking to add more pumpkin into your diet this fall?
Try this easy pumpkin soup recipe, from the University of Illinois Extension.
If using canned pumpkin, make sure to buy canned pumpkin puree (which is just pumpkin) and not pumpkin pie filling (which has added sugar and seasonings).
Quick and Easy Creamy Pumpkin Soup, from University of Illinois Extension:
2 cups finely chopped onions
2 green onions, sliced thinly, tops included
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 green chili pepper, chopped
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
3 cans chicken broth (14-1/2 oz cans) or 6 cups homemade chicken stock
2 cups pumpkin puree or 1 can (16 oz) solid pack pumpkin
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 cup undiluted, evaporated skim milk
Salt and pepper to taste (Canned chicken broth and canned pumpkin may contain added salt.
Taste the finished soup before adding salt, as additional salt may not be needed.)
Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley
In a 6-quart saucepan, sauté onions, green onions, celery and chili pepper in oil. Cook until onions begin to look translucent.
Add broth, pumpkin, bay leaf and cumin.
Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove bay leaf.
Add evaporated milk and cook over low heat 5 minutes.
Do not boil.
Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, if desired.
Transfer hot soup to pumpkin tureen.
Garnish with grated parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.
Serve hot. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
By Shari Bresin
Pasco County Extension intern, Syreeta McDonald, contributed to this article.
Published October 26, 2022