COLLEGE STATION — Pumpkins usually get a lot of fanfare this time of year by either wearing a funny smile, loafing around or settling down into a pie plate. But some of its best dishes are rarely prepared.
A member of the gourd family and cousin to the squash, pumpkin is versatile. It can be baked, boiled, canned and frozen. Pumpkin can be sieved, stewed, mashed, fried in egg and crumbs or baked au gratin. Even the seeds can be cooked to make a delicious snack. Better yet, it’s good for you.
“One-half cup of cooked pumpkin supplies enough vitamin A for one day’s needs and small amounts of iron, thiamin and riboflavin,” said Dr. Dymple Cooksey, nutrition specialist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service. “It’s also low in calories. A half cup of unseasoned pumpkin contains only 38 calories.”
However, pumpkin is highly perishable and must be cooked the same day it is cut open, Cooksey said. Otherwise, count it as food waste since the insides quickly mold to a feathery black.
Cooked pumpkin should be chilled immediately, she said. The pulp puree should be used within 36 hours.
“If you plan to use the cooked pumpkin later, freeze it or can it in a pressure canner,” she said. “The family and consumer sciences county Extension agent in your area can provide information on safe and proper canning procedures.”
* Fresh pumpkin is ideal as a substitute for winter squash or sweet potatoes in meals, Cooksey said. It also makes a variety of delicious treats that are easy to make:
* Vegetable dish — Cut pumpkin in chunks and steam. Then add butter, salt and pepper and other seasoning. A touch of nutmeg will add a great flavor.
* Pot pie — Add pumpkin to hashed meat with apples, pears, rhubarb or other fruits.
* Casserole — Combine pumpkin with rice and minced green pepper in a thick white cheese sauce.
* Soup — Add pureed carrots, sliced onions and leeks, chopped celery and parsley to pumpkin.
* Souffle — Mix pumpkin with white sauce, eggs and cheese.
* Stuffed — Pumpkins may be stuffed with meat, vegetables or seafood.
Those who like the taste of summer squash can either bake or broil pumpkin, Cooksey said. If baking, during the last 15 minutes in the oven, turn flesh side up and brush with butter, honey and your favorite spices. Add nuts, raisins, sunflower seeds or other ingredients.
Instead of throwing away the seeds, try them as a snack. Wash the seeds well. Spread them in a single layer on cookie sheet to dry. Then, roast them at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes are until they are dry. Dot with butter and brow for 5 to 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Stir often until toasted. Sprinkle with salt, cool and serve.
To prepare curried pumpkin seeds, in a saucepan, mix one-fourth cup of curry powder, one-fourth cup warm water, 1 clove garlic (finely minced), 1 teaspoon salt and the juice of 1 lime. Blend until smooth. Add 1 cup water and heat, stirring constantly until liquid simmers. Add 2 cups plain, hulled pumpkin seeds and simmer (do not boil) for 5 minutes. Drain. Spread pumpkin seeds on a cookie sheet, dot with butter, sprinkle with salt and bake in preheated (250 degrees) oven until crisp.
According to Cooksey, cooked pumpkin seeds can be stored safely in a jar with a lid for an enjoyable snack later.