COLLEGE STATION — It is harvest time and pumpkins are flowing into local supermarkets. Most people relate pumpkins to the savory yet usual pumpkin pie; however, the uses of the winter gourds are unlimited.
“First of all fresh pumpkin can be substituted in recipes that call for winter squash or sweet potatoes,” said Dymple Cooksey, Extension nutrition specialist.
Small, immature pumpkins provide the most flavorful dish. Pumpkins smaller in size are more tender and less stringy than the larger variety. Cooksey recommends selecting pumpkins anywhere between five to eight pounds.
“If they’re very young and immature it would be the same as eating a stuffed summer squash,” said Cooksey. “Very small immature pumpkins can be stuffed with meat, vegetables, or even seafood.”
While pumpkins provide an alternative to the usual winter vegetables, they also help fulfill daily nutritional requirements. One serving, a half cup cooked, supplies enough Vitamin A for the day. Since the pumpkin is a vegetable high in water content, a half cup of uncooked unseasoned pumpkin contains only 38 calories.
When selecting a pumpkin, make sure there are no blemishes or decay spots and that there is a bit of the stem left in place. Store the pumpkin in a cool dry place and it will last for the winter.
However, pumpkin is highly perishable and must be cooked the same day it is cut open. Otherwise, orange flesh will develop a feathery black mold. Cooked pumpkin should be chilled immediately, said Cooksey.
During the cooking phase, the pulp will turn a dark brown. 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.”
Pumpkins can be diced into chunks, steamed as a vegetables, spiced with nutmeg to enhance the flavor and served as a side vegetable to any dish. Pumpkins can also be mixed with a variety of fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears and rhubarb. Grains and pumpkins complement one another and work together to create delicious casseroles.
This versatile vegetable can be used in a vast variety of dishes:
Pot pie — Add pumpkin to hashed meat with apples, pears, rhubarb or other fruits.
Casserole — Combine with rice and mince 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.
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 or until they are dry. Dot with butter and brown for 5 to 10 minutes 400 degrees. Stir often until toasted. Sprinkle with salt, cool and serve.