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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!

Pumpkin on 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 the U.S., due largely to our desire to carve faces into them. Some traditions are just so odd when you think about ‘em…but I digress.

This squash was, in fact, heavily relied on by the pilgrims once upon a time, as evidenced by this little verse.

For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.

If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.

Nowadays this would read something more like:

Pumpkin spice in the morning pumpkin spice at noon,
If not for pumpkin spice lattes we should be undoon.

pumpkins

Because obviously no ingredient rundown about pumpkins would be complete without mention of the infamous Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte (#PSL), probably the most successful marketing campaign ever (even with the absence of any real pumpkin in the beverage – edit: apparently they’ve changed that as of this 2015 PSL season). Related.

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

Pumpkin on white background

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, 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 and appearances and uses. I’d recommend this site if you’re looking for one in particular.

pumpkin fest

How to Store Pumpkins

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

Pumpkin on white background

How to Cook Pumpkin

Cooking pumpkin is a lot like cooking spaghetti squash. Halve it, scoop out the seeds and gunk, then cook.

  • Bake: Place cut side down and bake at 350 degrees F (175 C) for 1 to 2 hours, or until inside is fork-tender. Allow to cool slightly, then scoop out the pumpkin innards with a spoon and toss the rind (or eat the rind if you’re my dad).
  • Boil: Cut the pumpkin into chunks and boil for 20 to 30 minutes until tender.
  • 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 (Or do what we did with chickpeas on pumpkin seeds!) Roast at 275 degrees F (135 C) for 10 to 15 minutes until lightly browned.

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.
Pumpkin on white background

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