CO-Horts Blog

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fall in the Air, Pumpkins on the Brain!

Kurt Jones, Chaffee County Extension Director
(Excerpts from Libby Colbert, Arapahoe County Extension)
I came home yesterday to one of my favorite treats…a home-made pumpkin pie!  So much for my self-imposed diet.  I also love roasted pumpkin seeds this time of year; luckily both are readily available this time of year.  I won’t even dwell on the pumpkin-infused beverages that keep tempting me!
The pumpkin has been a longtime favorite of children, featured in their literature (Cinderella's coach) and in song (the keeper for Peter Pumpkin Eater's wife). The Jack-o-Lantern is their Halloween celebrity. In China the pumpkin is still called the emperor of the garden.
Pumpkin technically belongs to the squash family, but works so well as pie filling it is often considered a fruit. It is also a good main course vegetable and an ingredient in soup, quick breads, cookies, cakes and pudding. It is an excellent source of many nutrients including Vitamin A, iron, potassium, Vitamin C and others. It is low in calories, sodium and fat.

Historically, pumpkin seeds have been used medicinally: American Indians chewed them to ward off kidney infections and parasites, and they were an official drug in the 19th century as a diuretic and worm remedy. They are rich in phosphorus, iron and some B vitamins, including niacin, are thirty percent protein and forty percent unsaturated fat. They can be purchased raw or roasted, or you can prepare them yourself. They are a great snack and the kernels make a crunchy complement to cooked dishes and salads.

Harvesting and storing
Pumpkins are ready to harvest when they are orange in color and the skin is hard, anytime before frost. The rind should not be easily penetrated by a thumbnail. Smaller varieties of pumpkins are best for storage and cooking. They store best when part of the stem is left on and carefully handled. By storing at about 55 degrees F. in a dry place they have a two to three month storage life. Prepared pumpkin pulp may be frozen, canned and even dried for future use. Pumpkin must be canned in a pressure canner as cubes, not mashed or pureed. A five-pound pumpkin will yield about 4 1/2 cups of cooked, mashed pumpkin. About 2 cups of cooked pumpkin is required for a 9-inch pie.

Roasting pumpkin seeds
Rinse two cups pumpkin seeds until pulp and strings are detached. Boil seeds for ten minutes in six cups of water with 1 teaspoon of salt added. Drain and dry seeds on paper towels. In a bowl add 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine. Add pumpkin seeds and stir well. Spread on baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees F for about 30 minutes or until seeds are light brown. Seeds should be crisp when fully roasted.

Preparing cooked pumpkin
An easy way to prepare pumpkin for recipes calling for cooked pumpkin is to cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp, and cook the halves face down in a conventional or microwave oven until pulp is tender (about an hour in a 350 degree F oven, or 6-7 minutes per pound in the microwave). After the cooked pulp is scooped out of the shell it may be mashed or put through a mill or strainer. It is then ready to be used in a recipe, or frozen for later use.

I now need to get back to my pie before my kids catch me and want to share!  I can always go back on the diet next week...

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