I haven’t done much decorating for fall this year, but I do have mums in my flowerpots and a big orange pumpkin at the end of my sidewalk. When the leaves start to turn color, I get the urge to buy a pumpkin or two.
Pumpkins are a centerpiece of autumn. They are a splash of color in the landscape, a prize for families to haul home from the local pumpkin patch and a canvas for carving and painting.
And of course, pumpkin is a star ingredient in soups, pies and breads. Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin A and dietary fiber.
Picking the perfect pumpkin
If you’re headed to a pumpkin patch, here are a few tips for picking just the right one.
- A pumpkin is ready to pick when it has a deep, glossy orange color. The rind should be firm and not have any rotten spots. Make sure to leave about three to four inches of handle on the pumpkin.
- If the pumpkin doesn’t have a handle, it won’t last as long.
- Once you’ve found just the right pumpkin, take it home and store it in a cool place (50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit) until you’re ready to carve it.
- If you’re wanting to make pumpkin puree for using in recipes, look for the smaller, rounder pie pumpkin. It is thicker and less stringy and better for cooking than the larger pumpkins.
- In order to puree a pumpkin, it must first be roasted.
Start by cutting the pumpkin in half. Use a spoon or scoop to scrape out the seeds and save them in a separate bowl so you can roast them later. Discard the stringy flesh in the center.
Once you’ve cleaned out the pumpkin, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the pumpkin in half, place it cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The pumpkin is ready when the outer skin can be pierced with a fork. Let the pumpkin cool for 10 minutes. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon, and puree it in a food processor or blender until it has a smooth, uniform consistency. You can store pumpkin puree in a refrigerator for up to five days or freeze it.
Here’s an easy, tasty recipe to try with pumpkin puree. You may also use the canned version.
Creamy Pumpkin Fruit Dip
2 cups of pumpkin puree (roasted yourself) OR a 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree
1 cup of plain or vanilla low-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
½ teaspoon of nutmeg (optional)
2 cups of cut fruit - for dipping (your choice)
In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, yogurt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir until smooth. Serve immediately with cut fruit. Chill leftovers in the refrigerator.
Makes about eight ¼-cup servings. Source: Creamy Pumpkin Dip at celebrateyourplate.org.
Roasting pumpkin seeds
Now back to those pumpkin seeds. Here’s how to roast them for a tasty, crunchy snack:
Wash the seeds carefully to remove the clinging fiber. Dry the seeds in a dehydrator at 115 degrees to 120 degrees until crisp or in the oven at 15 degrees for one to two hours, stirring frequently.
Mix thoroughly 2 cups dry seeds, ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 1⁄2 tablespoons melted butter and 1 teaspoon salt. Place in a shallow baking pan and roast (1 hour at 250 degrees; 30 minutes at 275 degrees; or 10–15 minutes at 300 degrees). Be sure to stir the seeds frequently as they roast.
To store the seeds, place the cooled seeds in a plastic bag. For long-term storage, keep in the refrigerator or freezer. The seeds will become rancid if stored at room temperature for long periods of time.
To learn more about cooking with and using pumpkins at home go to Ohioline for free fact sheets.
Laurie Sidle is an Ohio State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences and 4-H program assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was previously published in The Daily Record.