By SeAnne Safaii, Ph.D., RD, LD, and Morgan Dunning UI dietetics student
One of fall’s favorite pastimes is packing out a perfect pumpkin. You take it home, and carefully carve a jack-o-lantern to display on Halloween. But what happens to the rest of the pumpkin? Often it ends up being discarded. However, the seemingly useless insides of your pumpkin are actually very nutritious and can provided you and your family a base for healthy recipes and tasty fall treats.
Pumpkins, like most vegetables, are low in fat and have a moderate amount of carbohydrates. In one cup there are 12 grams of carbohydrates, with only 2.5 grams of sugar and nearly 3 grams of fiber. This is about 10 percent of your recommended daily fiber value. The bright orange color of pumpkins indicates that they are packed with beta-carotene, or vitamin A. This is an antioxidant that aids your body in fighting infections and helps keep your eyes and skin healthy. One cup of cooked pumpkin contains 245 percent of our recommended daily value of vitamin A. Pumpkins also contain 19 percent of your recommended vitamin C intake and 16 percent of daily potassium. It is also a source of iron and calcium, making the colorful fall vegetable a healthy ingredient to use as part of your fall menu.
Now the question is, how do you turn the stringy insides of your pumpkin into a usable ingredient? Pumpkins can be turned into pumpkin puree that is equivalent to the canned pumpkin you can buy in the stores in a few easy steps. First, you scrape out the seeds and strings and set them aside. Then cut your pumpkin into strips and place the pieces into a steamer flesh side down. Steam the pieces until they are soft and the flesh is beginning to separate from the skins. Let the strips cool and scrape the flesh from the skins. Then put the pumpkin flesh in a blender and puree. You can use the puree right away, or store it for later by freezing it, or placing it in the refrigerator in an air-tight container. This puree can be used in the same amounts as canned pumpkin in your recipes. Don’t use pumpkins that have had candles burned inside to make pumpkin puree.
Finally, don’t forget to use the seeds from your pumpkin! They make a tasty snack that is high in protein and is easy to make. Simply sprinkle them with a little salt, garlic, or other seasonings and then bake them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes. Cool them and enjoy.
Pumpkin puree isn’t just for pies. Here is a recipe for a tasty pumpkin soup:
½ cup onion
3 tbsp. butter
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground pepper
3 cups chicken broth
½ cup half and half, or
Fat free half and half
Chop the onions and gently brown with butter in a pan. Put pumpkin pack with onions in the pan. Add the salt, sugar, nutmeg and pepper. Slowly add chicken broth and heat thoroughly, but do not boil. To serve, pour into a large bowl and add the half and half. Makes 4 servings.