A Pumpkin Primer
A Little History
A member of the Cucurbita family, it's a close relation to cucumbers, watermelons and other members of the squash family.
The pumpkin is a hardy vegetable, grown worldwide in a variety of climates. Believed to have originated in Central America they were staples of the Native American diet centuries before the pilgrims arrived in New England.
After white settlers colonized America, pumpkin seeds were carried back to Europe, where they quickly became popular as well.
Pumpkins are also quite healthy, containing fiber, vitamin A and potassium. The pulp is the most commonly consumed portion of the pumpkin, followed by the seeds. The seeds serve as a great snack, just toasted lightly and salted.
Purchasing & Storage Information
If you live in cooler climates, October is a great month to visit pumpkin patches and pick out pumpkins to cook with or carve for Halloween. Avoid cooking with the very large jack-o-lantern variety though - they're a bit too stringy and give off too much water. Smaller varieties are more tender and flavorful. Choose blemish-free pumpkins that feel rather heavy for their size. Whole pumpkins can be stored at room temperature for 3 to 4 weeks, and in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 months.
Our Favorite Pumpkin Recipes
Here are a few of our favorite recipes made with pumpkin. You can either purchase canned, or follow our simple instructions for making your own purée from fresh pumpkin below.
- Egg Noodles with Pumpkin Brown Butter and Sage
- Pumpkin Sage Ravioli with Red Wine Cream Sauce
- Pumpkin Spice Muffins
- Rum-Spiked Pumpkin Pie
- Bourbon-Laced Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake
- Spiced Pumpkin, Orange and Cranberry Cookies
How To Make Your Own Fresh Pumpkin Purée
It's simple to prepare fresh pumpkin for purée. Just cut the pumpkin into wedges and remove the seeds and fibers.
Place the wedges in a roasting pan with a little water, cover with foil and roast at 400°F until the flesh is very tender - about one hour. Allow it to cool, peel off the skin and puree the flesh in a food processor.
A 2-1/2 to 3-pound pumpkin will yield between 1-1/2 to 2 cups of purée. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze in an airtight container for up to 10 months.
If you're not up for tackling a fresh pumpkin, you can get perfectly good prepared pumpkin puree and seeds when you need them. It's definitely way less messy, not to mention a big time saver. You can also successfully substitute butternut squash for pumpkin in many savory dishes if need be.