Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere
Just like viewing bright red, yellow and golden leaves, carving and eating pumpkins is an expected fall treat in the High Country. Now is the time for a ritualistic pumpkin selection, as farmers’ markets and road-side stands will soon close for the season.
Field pumpkins, which are bred for perfect jack-o-lanterns, tend to be too large and stringy for baking and not as sweet as baking varieties. In 2009, a pumpkin was grown in North Carolina that weighed nearly 1,300 pounds, setting a state record.
If you purchase from a local grower, just ask them what varieties are good for baking and recipes.
A medium-sized (5-pound) baking pumpkin should yield around 4½ cups of mashed pumpkin. This puree can be used in all recipes calling for canned pumpkin.
Nutritionally, orange pumpkins are similar to carrots, with high levels of beta-carotene converting to vitamin A in the body.
Here is an easy way to transform an uncooked pumpkin into the puree used in baking:
Pumpkin Puree for Recipes
Cut the pumpkin in half and discard the stem section and stringy pulp. Save the seeds to dry and roast.
In a baking dish, place the two halves face down. Add an inch of water to the dish.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for about 1½ hours for a medium-sized baking pumpkin, or until tender.
Once the baked pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh and puree or mash it.
You can refrigerate your fresh pumpkin puree for up to three days, or store it in the freezer up to a year, enabling you to enjoy fall pumpkins for months to come
How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds
1. Rinse pumpkin seeds under cold water and pick out the pulp and strings, which is easiest just after you’ve removed the seeds from the pumpkin, before the pulp has dried.
2. Place the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet, stirring to coat. If you prefer, omit the oil and coat with non-stick cooking spray.
3. Sprinkle with salt, if desired, and bake at 325 degrees F until toasted, about 25 minutes, checking and stirring after 10 minutes.
4. Let cool and store in an air-tight container.
Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. To contact Margie, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (828) 264-3061.