Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Value of Pumpkins

      This year our family has really appreciated pumpkins.  We didn't grow them this year.  Perhaps we appreciate things more when they are not as available.   I've thought in the past that pumpkins were not the best choice as a food because they have such a large seed cavity, and do not have as much flesh as squash.  This is not to say I don't like pumpkin.  I do have pleasant memories of making homemade pumpkin pie with real pumpkin years ago. It was the best pumpkin pie in my memory.  At a farmers market I was given a bargain on a big pumpkin this year.  I took it home for $1.  It decorated our front porch for a while.  Memories of that excellent pumpkin pie from years ago would not allow this pumpkin to just go to waste.  I taught my sister, Hannah, how to bake it, and pulverize it so it could be used as pie.  She has made lots of pies from canned pumpkin, so after showing her how to pulverize it, she was on own and she baked up a number of excellent pies.  Our family was starting to get used to having pumpkin pie for days.  I didn't know how good a "big" pumpkin would taste, but as pie, this big pumpkin was just fine.  Usually people use small pumpkins known as pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins for baking purposes.  Then I was given pumpkin flesh from an even bigger pumpkin.   This pumpkin was huge and probably reached my knee in height.  I was concerned that the taste would not be as good because it had a more stringy texture.  Hannah went to work with this also, and more pumpkin pies were made.  These came out very good too.  It was looking like pumpkin pie would become a staple in our home.

     Then there are the seeds.  These are a powerhouse of nutrients!  Pumpkin seeds have lots of vitamin E, magnesium, and are well known for their zinc content.  I have bought the seeds without shells at a grocery store and have even grown the type that does not have shells, but was not aware until recently that you can eat seeds from pumpkin and squash without shelling them. I always pictured the shells to be woody.  The pumpkin and squash shells are not overly chewy, and they contribute more zinc to the diet than the seeds alone.  I put them in our toaster oven for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit  and they make some very good snacking seeds.  Our family grew lots of winter squash this year, so I tried the squash seed also.  They came out good, but they are a lot smaller and pop as they bake.  Many seeds popped outside of the baking pan!  The pumpkin seeds did not pop like the squash seed did, but both came out excellent in flavor and crunch.  I'm so glad we planted lots of squash this year, but I'd like to plant some pumpkin next year now that I know how much I like the big pumpkin seeds!

    Pumpkin flesh contributes around 300% of your daily requirements of vitamin A per half cup serving.  That is impressive when considering how hard it is to get large amounts of nutrients from all natural sources. You can use pumpkin flesh to make pie, pudding, bread, or pancakes like you would canned pumpkin by baking and pulverizing it.  We started out by cutting the pumpkin in half and scooping out the seeds and stringy pulp. We baked our pumpkin for about an hour and half in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a pan with about half an inch of water with the cut side down.  We then scooped the flesh from out of the pumpkin shell and put it in a blender.  A food processor would probably work better.  The pumpkin is ready to use just like you would canned pumpkin at this point. The extra could be put in storage containers to freeze.  We just put the extra in the fridge and kept making pies for days on end, and everybody was happy with that. 

How I wish we had grown pumpkins this year!

If you have suggestions for using pumpkins, you are welcome to leave comments.  Thanks!

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