It’s Pumpkin Season!

 

Pumpkins
Source: Kendra Zamojski

Even though the weather is still warm, fall is here! Visit any of our local grocery stores and you will see pumpkins for sale. Pumpkins are an important part of the fall season and here in Gadsden County you can find several varieties including pie or sugar pumpkins, as well as the large carving pumpkins. The variety of pumpkin you select will depend on its purpose. The general rule is that the bigger the pumpkin, the more stringy and bland they are likely to be. Large pumpkins are best for carving into jack-o-lanterns, while smaller pumpkins are a better choice for baking. Smaller pumpkins, sometimes labeled as “pies” have a smooth-textured flesh, and tend to be sweeter and more flavorful than the larger varieties.

Pumpkins can be stored for a couple weeks at room temperature, in a well-insulated location. However, once you cut the pumpkin, you must store it in your refrigerator, where it will keep for several days. If you want to store your pumpkin for longer, you should prepare the pumpkin properly before freezing. Frozen pumpkin mash can be thawed any time and is excellent for making pies and baked goods.

Pumpkin Facts:

  • Pumpkins are fruits, and contain seeds. They are a member of the cucurbit family which includes squash and cucumbers.
  • Pumpkins are made up of 90% water
  • It takes four to five months to grow pumpkins.
  • Pumpkins are a good source of the B-complex group of vitamins like folate, niacin, vitamin B-6, thiamin, and pantothenic acid.
  • Pumpkins are a rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus
  • Pumpkin seeds contain about 1.7 grams of dietary fiber per ounce

Freezing Pumpkin

First prepare the pumpkin, by washing it, cutting it into small pieces, and removing the seeds. Don’t discard the seeds as they make a great snack when roasted. Cook the pumpkin pieces in boiling water, or in an oven until the pieces are soft. Scrape the pulp in order to separate the rind from the mash, and discard the rind. After the mash has cooled, package in approved freezer container leaving ½-inch headspace. Don’t forget to label and date the container before putting into the freezer.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted pumpkin seeds are really easy to prepare. Once you have cut up the pumpkins, remove the seeds from the pulp, rinse and drain well. Spread the pumpkin seeds on a cookie sheet and coat the pumpkins seeds with about a teaspoon of olive oil. Bake the seeds at 300˚F for 20 – 25 minutes or until they are golden brown. Stir the seeds often to avoid overcooking. Once they are cooled, you can coat them with herbs such as ginger, dill or parsley.

Pumpkins are rich in vitamins and minerals but low in calories. Adding pumpkin to your favorite recipe will make a delicious addition to your baked goods.

Author:  Laurie Osgood, Family and Consumer Science Agent, UF/IFAS Extension, Gadsden County, FL

For more information about pumpkins or other seasonal fruits and vegetables, please visit UF/IFAS at http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/about/htt. Or sign up to receive the Living Well in the Panhandle Newsletter at http://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/fcs/.