Pumpkins are a rich source of beta carotene, which helps protects cells from cancer causing damage and is a precursor to Vitamin A, which is important for healthy vision, proper cell growth and a strong immune system.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean all of the pumpkin flavored products sprouting up everywhere are good for you.
While admittedly delicious, these types of products are often really high in calories, fat and added sugar. One pumpkin muffin from Dunkin Donuts weighs in at 550 calories, 24g of fat and 40g of sugar. The good news is that you can still indulge in pumpkin based foods without those extra, unnecessary and empty calories from fat and sugar. Get into the spirit this season by pumpkin picking and reaping their benefits.
Picking your pumpkin:
The large Jack-o’-lantern variety has become the national symbol for Halloween and is also edible. The sweet pumpkin or pie pumpkin is a smaller and sweeter tasting pumpkin that is best for cooking and baking.
- Pumpkins should be harvested when they are deep, solid in color (orange for the most part) and the rind is hard.
- Select heavy, unblemished pumpkins that are free from cracks and soft spots.
- Harvest with at least an inch of the stem remaining.
- Whole unblemished pumpkins can be stored for 3-6 months at 45-50°F.
Preparing your pumpkin:
Pumpkin can be baked, boiled or steamed. Once cooked, the inside flesh can be scooped out and pureed, mashed or cubed.
- Pumpkin puree is a good substitute in recipes that call for butternut squash or other vegetables of the winter squash family.
- Add 1/2 cup to your cup of oats with a pinch of cinnamon and ginger.
- There are some great healthy recipes that add pumpkin puree to pancakes, muffins, and breads (see pumpkin muffin recipe, below).
- Layer low fat vanilla yogurt, pumpkin puree, granola and pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg for a delicious pumpkin parfait.
Cubed pumpkin can be enjoyed on its own with a drizzle of maple syrup or added to your favorite risotto, soup, stew, casserole, stir fry or curry recipe.
Save the seeds. Wash them to remove any bits of flesh, spread out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 350°F for about 30-45 minutes or until golden brown.
Where to pick & purchase
Grand Isle County
Written By; Danielle Pothier, MS, RD, CHWC, Wellness Specialist Northwestern Lifestyle Medicine and Johanna Setta, Food Access Coordinator, Healthy Roots Collaborative