The cool brisk air has arrived right on cue with the first day of fall. Time to pull out the sweaters, boots and most importantly all things pumpkin. Pumpkins are one of the oldest domesticated plants, having been used as early as 7,500 to 5,000 BC. Whether you use them for decorations, carve them into a jack-o-lantern, drink a pumpkin spice latte or enjoy them in a pie, pumpkins are a fall staple. In 2017 the U.S. grew 1.5 billion pounds with Indiana being one of the largest producing states.
I want to take nothing away from my other fall favorite, apples, but pumpkins are great nutritional food to add to your diet. Eating seasonal foods is great way to add variety to your diet, find foods at their peak and buy them at their lowest price. Pumpkins are a winter squash and only contain 30 calories per 1 cup. They are an excellent source of Vitamin A and a good source of Vitamin C. Two immune supporting vitamins. Pumpkin is also a great fiber source, to help aid with digestion. Keep in mind most winter squash such as butternut squash is considered a pumpkin.
Traditionally we eat the flesh of a pumpkin but the entire pumpkin is edible from the skin, seeds, leaves and even the blossom. This fall would be a great time to try pumpkin in a new way. Roast, steam or boil the pumpkin and mash the inside for a delicious addition to soups, oatmeal or pie. Roast the pumpkin seeds for a snack or a crunchy topping for your salad. The seeds are a good source of protein, magnesium, copper and zinc. Pumpkin seeds are sometimes called pepitas.
Feeling adventurous and want to try something new. The butternut squash and Hokkaido pumpkins are ideal pumpkins for eating their skin. The Hokkaido skin is thin enough to leave on while roasting and may result in a more intense flavor of the flesh. Butternut squash skin is a bit more tough, so it is ideal to peel first and pan fry with onions and carrots for a flavorful fall vegetable dish. Looking to roast your own pumpkin seeds, choose a pumpkin variety with hall-less seeds. You might see these marked as seed pumpkins and common varieties are Styrian and Kakai pumpkins. Pick a pumpkin that sounds hollow when you tap on it, this indicates a large seed cavity, resulting in plenty of seeds to roast.
When you head out to Oak Hill Farms or other local pumpkin patches for your fall festivities in the next few weeks, find pumpkins to decorate and carve, but don’t forget to consider they are edible too. Many of the varieties that make great decorations are also great for eating. Pick up one to eat, and remember to try all parts of the pumpkin not just the flesh. Now go enjoy the beautiful fall colors, eating pumpkin and drinking apple cider, I know I will.
Monica Nagele is the Montgomery County Extension Educator and County Extension Director, Health and Human Science. She is a registered dietitian. The Extension office is at 400 Parke Ave., Crawfordsville; 765-364-6363. She may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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