Harvest of the Month: Pumpkins

While most people’s first thought may jump to jack-o-lanterns or Thanksgiving pies, pumpkins and their flavor appear in everything from lattés to pancakes. October’s signature squash has alpha- and beta-carotene antioxidants to prevent cancer and skin wrinkling, and enormous amounts of vitamin A for eye health. The fiber found in pumpkins also aids in losing weight, since the slower digestion rate keeps you feeling full for longer.

How to Select

Pumpkins used in cooking are usually smaller than your jack-o-lanterns. These small pumpkins are sweeter, contain a smooth texture in their flesh, and weigh between four and eight pounds. Common pumpkin breeds for cooking include Sugar Pumpkins, Baby Pams, Autumn Golds, Ghost Riders, or New England Pie Pumpkins. Check the pumpkin for soft spots or bruises since the smallest cut can make the fruit turn bad quickly. Don’t forget to inspect the bottom where it’s been resting on the ground.

How to Store

Never carry a pumpkin by its stem; this can cause ripping or tearing that can cause infection. Pumpkins have a long shelf life and can keep for months at a cool room temperature.

How to Prepare

Rinse the pumpkin and cut a circle around the stem about two inches out. Scoop out and discard the stringy fibers and seeds, or clean the seeds and save them for a healthy snack. Cut the pumpkin in half using a large chef’s knife and scrape any remaining fibers out of the flesh. You can steam pumpkin, dice it for soup, or make a puree for baking.

Try pumpkin in the recipe for Pumpkin Cranberry Bread from AllRecipes.com.

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