What the Fork: Pumpkins
Pumpkins are the typecast actors of the squash world - pigeonholed into pies and lattes, buried in obligatory cinnamon, and banished to the dessert table. Sure, it’s delicious, but it’s predictable, repetitive, and sells pumpkins short. It’s time to stop underutilizing this awesome ingredient!
Why should I eat more pumpkins?
We all win when we move pumpkins into the starting line-up for mealtime. Pumpkins get to be the star of the show, and we can take advantage of their underrated health benefits. Packed with fiber and brimming with beta-carotene, pumpkins are a hearty ingredient that packs a nutritional punch.
How do I pick a pumpkin?
The best eating pumpkins are dense and flavorful. Though there are many varieties that fit the bill, you’ll often see them lumped under the catchall categories of “sugar” or “pie” pumpkins. The varieties that are bred for carving are edible but have watery, less flavorful flesh that’s not as well suited for cooking. A telltale sign of a carving pumpkin is that knocking on it will produce a hollow sound, rather than the thud of a sugar pumpkin.
Can I eat the seeds?
Yes! No matter the type of pumpkin, make sure to reserve the seeds. Give them a rinse, toss them with some oil, salt, pepper, and whatever spice strikes your fancy, and toss them in the oven for a snack that will ready before your jack-o-lanterns are lit! If you’d rather save them for later, here is a collection of recipe ideas that all include pumpkin seeds.
Can I use canned pumpkin instead of fresh pumpkin?
Pumpkin puree is the starting point for many a pumpkin-forward recipe, especially quick soups and curries. If you don’t have a pumpkin handy, canned pumpkin puree is a great option. Just be sure to pick pure pumpkin instead of a spiced blend, which often has lots of sugar and spices already added to it. This way, you can avoid unnecessary added sugar and choose your own seasoning adventure.
What if I want to make my own pumpkin puree?
If you do have a pumpkin available to work with, making your own puree is a piece of cake. Simply halve, remove seeds, bake, scrape, then puree! Get started with a recipe here.
What can I do with pumpkins besides bake?
Because they so often get the dessert treatment, it can be easy to forget that pumpkins are just another member of the squash family. Just like its cousins, pumpkins are perfectly suited for savory dishes.
You can roast them and toss them into a grain salad, simmer them into your next soup, or puree them and add it to your breakfast smoothie. Need some inspiration? Try starting with any of the following flavor combos:
Sage, rosemary, thyme: great for roasting, or in a pumpkin pasta
Garlic, ginger, curry: try pumpkin in an Asian-inspired dish
Coconut, pecans, walnuts: mix and match for flavor and crunch in a salad or appetizer
Cumin, paprika, cayenne, chili powder: consider a black bean soup, or pumpkin tacos
Cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, nutmeg: bring traditional pumpkin spices into a main course by seasoning a farro or couscous dish with these warming spices.
For even more inspiration, check out these recipe ideas that incorporate pumpkin into your cooking in fresh new ways!