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Pumpkins 101

Everything you need to know about everyone’s favorite fall squash…pumpkins! Different varieties, storage tips, and nutritional info for pumpkin!

Photo of a pumpkin on a white background

The American relationship with pumpkins is an odd one. While we rarely buy them to eat, pumpkins are still one of the most popular crops grown in America, largely because of our desire to carve faces into them.

Some traditions are just so odd when you think about them…but I digress.

But through history and tradition and lattes, pumpkins have established themselves as the quintessential autumn squash of America, so let’s delve into the world of pumpkins!

This is what autumn dreams look like.

How to Pick the Perfect Pumpkin

Pumpkin is a winter squash, meaning it’s commonly harvested in the fall. In contrast to summer squash with its thin skin (like zucchini), winter squash has a thick skin that enables it to be stored for months.

So how do you pick the perfect pumpkin? Well that depends on what you’re intending to do with the pumpkin! If you’re going for the classic orange Jack-O-Lantern variety, look for a pumpkin with a consistent color that’s free from scratches. Flip it over and gently press the bottom. If it gives, the pumpkin ain’t fresh. And a green stem means the pumpkin was picked recently.

But there are a gazillion variations of pumpkin, each with their own freshness cues, appearances, and uses. I’d recommend this site if you’re looking for one in particular.

How to Store Pumpkins

Pumpkins enjoy that cool, crisp autumn weather (who doesn’t?), and can be stored for up to a year in a dark, cool environment. It’s best to store your pumpkins outside somewhere shaded, protecting them from frost and direct sunlight.

How to Cook Pumpkin

Cooking pumpkin is a lot like cooking spaghetti squash. Halve it, scoop out the seeds and gunk, then cook. There are few ways to cook pumpkin:

How to Bake Pumpkin: Place cut side down and bake at 350 degrees F (175 C) for about 1 hour, or until inside is fork-tender. Allow to cool slightly, then scoop out the pumpkin innards with a spoon and toss out the tough rind.

How to Boil Pumpkin: Cut the pumpkin into chunks and boil for 20 to 30 minutes until tender.

How to Cook Pumpkin Seeds: Don’t let the seeds go to waste! Rinse them off, let them dry, spread them onto a baking sheet and sprinkle them with some salt and a dash of olive oil. Bake at 275 degrees F (135 C) for 10 to 15 minutes until lightly browned.

How to Make Pumpkin Puree: Here’s how to make your own pumpkin puree!

Pumpkin festival in Germany
In Germany, they have a whole festival just celebrating pumpkins!

Pumpkin Nutrition Information

per 1 cup of pumpkin cubes (116g)

  • Calories: 30
  • Carbohydrates: 8g
  • Protein: 1g
  • Fat: 0g
  • 197% DV of vitamin A: Provides the provitamin version of this fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it comes from a plant source and your body converts the plant pigment into active Vitamin A. It is essential in many components of healthy vision, as well as immunity and cell growth/differentiation.
  • 17% DV of vitamin C: A water-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant to fight against potentially damaging free radicals (molecules with unshared electrons that float around wreaking havoc) and an important cofactor in collagen synthesis.
  • 11% DV of potassium: A key mineral and electrolyte involved in countless processes, including healthy nervous system functioning and contraction of the heart and muscles.

Hi, I’m Sarah!

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  1. GW says:

    Sarah, this is a great post. Thanks. We have always thrown out pumpkins after Halloween. What a waste, as long as they aren’t carved, why not cook them. Love your easy recipes BTW.

    1. Sarah says:

      Exactly! Stopping food waste, one jack-o-lantern at a time 😀