pumpkins in a pumpkin patch

Pumpkins

pumpkins in a pilePumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons and zucchini. Beta-carotene is responsible for giving pumpkins their bright, orange color. Pumpkin is packed with nutrients. Naturally low in fat and sodium, pumpkin has about 50 calories and 3 grams of fiber per cup. It’s an excellent source of beta-carotene, a pigment our bodies use to make vitamin A. Vitamin A helps keep skin and tissues healthy, helps our eyes see normally in the dark and works as an antioxidant nutrient that could lower our risk for certain kinds of cancer. Additionally, pumpkin is a very good source of seven other vitamins and minerals.  One cup of cooked pumpkin provides almost 20 percent of the Vitamin C needed in one day.

You can make pumpkin recipes with canned or fresh pumpkin. When choosing a pumpkin, get the right pumpkin for the job. Pumpkins for jack-o’-lanterns usually are larger, with stringier pulp. Smaller pumpkins, called pie or sugar pumpkins, are ideal for cooking and baking. These smaller pumpkins are usually around 6 or 7 lbs and have a delicious pulp which can be prepared and used in a number of ways.

To prepare fresh pumpkin for recipes, wash it, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and microwave, bake or boil the pumpkin until the pulp is soft. Remove the skin, then mash it by hand or puree it in a food processor or blender.

Don’t toss the pumpkin seeds. They’re fiber-rich snacks. After removing the pumpkin pulp, wash off the seeds and blot them with a paper towel. Toss them with a little olive oil or vegetable oil, place them on a baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees until light brown (40 to 50 minutes), stirring about every five to 10 minutes. If you like, add seasoned salt or other spices.

The following are some great ways to use pumpkin what will benefit your health as well as your taste buds.

Light Pumpkin Pie

1 cup ginger snaps

16 ounce can pumpkin

½ cup egg whites (about 4)

½ cup sugar

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

12 ounce can evaporated skim milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grind the cookies in a food processor. Lightly spray a 9” glass pie pan with vegetable cooking spray.  Pat the cookie crumbs into the pan evenly. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Pour into the crust and bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Store in the refrigerator. Allow to cool and slice in 8 wedges.  Each slice has 165 calories, 1.5 g fat, 1.5 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, 32 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 6 g protein.

Grilled Pumpkin

2 pounds fresh pumpkin

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon oregano

Dash salt and pepper

Wash pumpkin, clean out seeds and fibers. Peel and cut into one inch cubes. Mix pumpkin cubes and all ingredients. Grill each side on medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes.Pumpkin is done when it is easily pierced by a fork. Makes 6- 8 servings.

Questions? Contact Sharon Treen, UF/IFAS Extension, Flagler County Director streen@ufl.edu

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