By Amanda Rogers
Fall belongs to the pumpkin, whether they’re being carved as jack-o-lanterns for Halloween or baked into pie for Thanksgiving. Fall belongs to the pumpkin. Heck, it’s even got its own television classic “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”
But how much do you really know about one of America’s favorite veggies?
Pumpkins are believed to have originated about 7,500 years ago in Central America. They didn’t look much like our big orange pumpkins, though. They were small, hard and bitter, but they ate them. By the 1600s, the Pilgrims were adding butter and spices and chowing down on this orange goodness like they were mashed potatoes. By the 1800s, folks had figured out how good it is in pie and the pumpkin’s place at the table was set.
And these orange babies are incredibly nutritious and low calorie – only 49 calories per cup of cooked pumpkin. Pumpkins pack Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, copper, manganese, Vitamin B2, fiber, protein, Vitamin E and iron. Their antioxidants and vitamins fight cancer, reduce the risk of chronic disease, boost immunity, protect your eyesight, lower cancer risk, benefit heart health and make your skin look better. Even the seeds are good for you, with antioxidants, magnesium, zinc and fatty acids, which can help keep your heart healthy.
So is the pumpkin a gourd or a squash, a fruit or a vegetable? Yes.
According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, squash are grown to be eaten, while gourds are for decorative uses. So if you eat your pumpkin, it’s a squash, but if you carve it or use it for decoration, it’s a gourd. Technically, you can use it for decoration and then slice it open for Thanksgiving dinner.
Pretty useful, huh?
And since they have seeds, they’re technically fruit, but because they are not as sweet, they are also categorized as a vegetable.
So what can you do with them besides make a pie? And can you actually chop up your burned-out jack-o-lantern and turn into a Thanksgiving treat? You could, but it probably wouldn’t taste too good.
Big pumpkins are bred for carving and decorating, but they taste kind of watery. They come in lots of cool designer colors, though, the pristine white ones to the ghoulish gray and the decorative orange, green, white and gray streaked mixtures.
The smaller ones, with adorable names like Baby Bear, Cinderella, Early Sweet Sugar Pie, Small Sugar and Orange Smoothie, are the ones the pie makers are looking for – and they can be used for decoration first, if you don’t carve them up.
So how do you turn this orange ball into a creamy pie? It’s actually pretty easy. Cut off the top, scrape out and discard the insides and the seeds, cut the pumpkin in half, put it on a baking sheet, rub the skin with canola oil, put it on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake for about an hour until it’s tender. At this point, you’ve got your pumpkin or what you’ve probably bought in a can for most of your life. Find a pumpkin pie recipe or use one that you’ve loved for years, and don’t forget the whipped cream for the top.
So what else can you make from this sweet orange squash? Lots! Pumpkin soup, pumpkin cake, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin custard, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, roasted pumpkin or just roast and eat the seeds.
By Amanda Rogers for Surepoint Medical Centers
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