Even though the weather is still warm, fall is right around the corner. Walk into any local grocery store and pumpkins are starting to show up. Pumpkins are a staple for the beginning of the fall season. Locally, you will see many varieties called pie or sugar pumpkins as well as carving pumpkins.
The variety of pumpkin you select will depend on what you want to do with the pumpkin. Are you buying to carve a jack-o-lantern or make pumpkin pie? The bigger pumpkins are great for carving but the worst for cooking as they are stringy and very bland.
The best ones for baking and cooking with are sweet, flavorful, and have smooth-textured flesh. Varieties you will notice locally will be labeled for “pies” and are smaller and more compact in size.
After purchasing a pumpkin, it may be stored for many weeks in a well-ventilated place at room temperature. Once cut, you should store inside the refrigerator where it will keep for several days. For longer storage, prepare the pulp and freeze. This is excellent for pies and baked goods you want to make later.
Here are some interesting facts about pumpkins:
- Pumpkins are fruits (they contain seeds) and are a member of the cucurbit family which includes squash and cucumbers.
- Pumpkins are 90% water
- Pumpkins come in all sizes and weights.
- Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A.
- The United States produces more than one billion pounds of pumpkins each year.
- Most pumpkins are orange but come in other colors too such as yellow, white, green, red and even tan.
- Most pumpkins weigh about 15 – 30 pounds.
- Pumpkin seeds can be roasted for a snack.
- It takes four to five months to grow pumpkins.
Select a pumpkin labeled for cooking.
Preparation – Wash, cut into cooking-size sections and remove seeds. There are several ways to cook the pulp.
Cook in boiling water, in steam, or in an oven until soft. Remove by scraping the pulp from rind and mash. Discard the rind or use in your compost pile. To cool, place pan containing pumpkin in cold water and stir occasionally. Package in approved freezer container leaving ½-inch headspace. Label and date and place in freezer.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Scoop out seeds from pumpkin. Remove pulp from seeds; Rinse and drain well. Rub seeds with a little oil. Spread on cookie sheet and bake at 300˚F for about 20 – 25 minutes or until brown. Stir often.
Pamela H. Allen, UF/IFAS Interim County Extension Director, Okaloosa County