Everything You Need to Know About Pumpkins
Pumpkin season is here and we are all about it. You can find us baking Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookies, carving jack-o'-lanterns and roasting pumpkin seeds. As an added bonus, pumpkins are safe for dogs so you can catch us treating our furry friends to homemade Peanut Butter-Pumpkin Dog Treats. Check out our everything guide to this season's favorite gourd (yes, a pumpkin is a gourd).
Related: Healthy Pumpkin Recipes
Picking the Right Cooking Pumpkin
Yes, the 10- to 20-pound jack-o'-lanterns sitting on your front porch are edible, but trust us, the squirrels can have them post-Halloween. Carving pumpkins are stringy and bland when cooked.
To find ones fit for eating, look for smaller "sugar" or "pie" pumpkin varieties. They weigh 4 to 8 pounds, and are sweet and flavorful with smooth- textured flesh. Our favorite breeds include Autumn Gold, Baby Pam and Long Island Cheese Pumpkin (pictured below).
Related: Health Benefits of Pumpkins
Separate Pumpkin Seeds Like a Pro
The struggle to clean those pumpkin guts off your seeds is real. Try this pre-roasting technique: fill a large stockpot with water and dump in the pulp-covered seeds. Use your hands to pull the pumpkin flesh away from them. The pulp will sink to the bottom, while the clean seeds float to the top. Just skim them off when you're done! After seeds are seperated, we have the details on How To Roast Pumpkin Seeds. For more inspiration, check out these Healthy Pumpkin Seed Recipes.
Our Favorite Store-Bought Puree
The EatingWell Test Kitchen team taste-tested nearly a dozen brands of puree. One-Pie Pumpkin stood out as the winner for its smooth and creamy consistency and deep squash flavor—just what we want in our fall baked goods.
Buy It: One-Pie Pumpkin
Health Benefits of Pumpkins
Did you know? Pumpkins get their orange glow from carotenoids, compounds including beta carotene and lutein that bring serious nutrition to the table.
Beta carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A, may help keep your brain sharp and is associated with lower rates of Alzheimer's disease. Lutein promotes eye health and is linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. And get this: pumpkins contain even more carotenoids than carrots. One half cup serving of cooked pumpkin has these nutrients:
- 24 calories
- 1 gram of protein
- 0 grams of fat
- 6 grams of carbs
- 1 gram of fiber
- 302% RDA for vitamin A
Know Your Pumpkins
Here's how to I.D. five varieties you're likely to find at garden centers, supermarkets and farmers' markets this time of year.
Your typical jack-o'-lantern pumpkin grows to about 20 to 30 pounds and is intensely orange.
2. Casper Pumpkin
These white-skinned ornamental pumpkins have thick flesh— great for carving and painting.
3. New England Sugar Pie Pumpkin
One of the standard varieties used for pies, these pumpkins have a fine, sweet flesh.
4. Jack Be Little
These highly popular tiny pumpkins weigh in at just around 8 ounces. Party tip: they look super cute as table decor!
5. "Cinderella" Rouge Vif d'Etampes
This deep red-orange, flat-looking pumpkin from France was the inspiration for Cinderella's carriage.
Kick Back with a Cold (Pumpkin-Flavored) One
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale is our favorite seasonal brew because it's made with real pumpkin (many aren't) and has just the right fruit-to-beer balance. Released right around September 1, it's usually gone by Thanksgiving—so get it while the getting's good. Pair it with sharp Cheddar, stuffing and turkey.
Related: Two More Pumpkin Beers to Try
Assemble a Kitchen Carving Kit for Your Pumpkin
Forget those flimsy grocery store versions. Here are all the kitchen tools to round up:
1. A boning knife to cut out the lid. Buy It: Swiss Army Boning Knife, $19.99
2. An ice cream scoop for gutting small pumpkins or a big metal spoon for larger ones. Buy It: Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop, $14.99
3. Cookie cutters (and a permanent marker) to trace shapes for carving. Buy It: Halloween Cookie Cutter Set, $19.95
4. A paring knife for carving details. Buy It: Victorinox Classic Paring Knife, $9.17
Scoop Up This Pumpkin Server
Perfect for stews, roasts and braises, the enameled cast-iron Staub 3.5-qt. Pumpkin Cocotte is the treat we want this Halloween. It also comes in 16- and 24-oz. sizes, just right for pumpkin desserts like bread pudding.
Get Your Pumpkin Trivia Here!
A few cool facts about this orange fruit:
Illinois grows the most pumpkins of any U.S. state; about 50% of the national total. (To put that into perspective, U.S. farmers grew more than 2 billion pumpkins in 2018 alone!) The other top pumpkin producing states are: California, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina and New York.
The tradition of pumpkin carving comes from Ireland. It all started with a folktale about a man named Stingy Jack, who the devil wouldn't let into hell. As the legend goes, he roams the earth, his journey lit with a burning coal carried in a carved-out-turnip. People began making their own versions of Jack's lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them on their doorsteps to frighten Stingy Jack away. When Irish immigrants brought this tradition to the U.S., they adopted pumpkins over turnips. (Much easier to carve!)
Think Beyond the Jack-o-Lantern
5 wacky things people do with pumpkins:
1. Pumpkin Chuckin'
Catapults, air cannons and other inventions send pumpkins flying more than 4,500 feet through the air at these contests, which are organized around the country. The world championship is held in Rantoul, Illinois.
2. Pumpkin Pyramids
At the annual New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival in Laconia, festival-goers are greeted by a 34 foot tower of carved pumpkins. (We're not saying you should try for the same height at home.)
3. Pumpkin Regattas
Boats made out of giant hollowed out pumpkins get paddled by Halloween revelers (in costume, of course) in towns across the country—including Burlington, Vermont, where EatingWell is based. Yes, these vessels sometimes sink, but that's half the fun.
4. Pumpkin Bowling
Gourds get rolled down haystack "lanes" toward sets of pins. Annual events are held nationwide, but it's also a great backyard family activity.
5. Pumpkin Drops
Heads up! In Stillwater, Minnesota, pumpkins weighing up to 2,000 pounds get dropped by crane from a hundred feet onto other pumpkins below.
Stamp Perfect Pumpkin Cookies
Cookie stamps make prettily-patterned treats a snap. We love this spooky set by Nordic Ware for making batches of pumpkin (or spider) cookies to share. Buy It: Nordic Halloween Cookie Stamps
Light Up the Night
With nine haunting color modes—including purple, green and orange and a spook-tacular color-changing cycle—these lights are the perfect pumpkin companions. Bonus: they're waterproof and solar-charged. After Halloween, use them to light up snow forts. Buy It: MPOWERD Luci Solar Lights, $23.00
How to Grow Your Own Gourds Next Year
We recommend saving seeds from heirloom pumpkins (bought from a farmer who can confirm). Heirlooms are "true to seed," meaning if you save their seeds you'll get a similar-looking pumpkin to the one you started with. (There's no easy way to tell with store-bought ones.) Spread clean, dry seeds on a baking sheet lined with parchment, not letting them touch each other. Set in a cool place, turning several times the first couple of days, so they dry evenly on each side. After 3 to 4 weeks, store seeds in an envelope until planting time in your region.
Your Guide to Everything Pumpkin | EatingWell October 2019