Pumpkins are everywhere this time of year — in lattes, breads, muffins and pies. Pumpkins are not only tasty, but they are nutritious too. Pumpkins are fat free, sodium free, and low in calories. They are a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C. The orange flesh contains the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is the precursor to vitamin A. These nutrients are important for immune and digestive health.
Technically a fruit, pumpkin is versatile. The flesh can be cooked, pureed and added to a variety of recipes or roasted and eaten as is. The seeds can also be roasted and seasoned with different herbs and spices for a high-fiber snack or salad topping.
An easy way to prepare a pumpkin is to slice the entire fruit in half, place the cut side down on a baking sheet, and roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour or until a fork easily pierces the flesh. Scoop out the cooked flesh and puree it in a food processor to reach the desired consistency. Fresh pumpkin can be used in the place of canned in recipes, smoothies or oatmeal, or blended into dips and spreads.
Choose pumpkins that are symmetrical and heavy for their size. The smaller pumpkins typically have a sweeter flavor and work well in desserts or sweet breads. Pumpkins can be stored for up to a month in whole form or several days in the refrigerator after cooked.
Looking for an easy, sweet and spicy twist on traditional pumpkin seeds? Try this recipe:
SWEET AND SPICY PUMPKIN SEEDS
2 cups pumpkin seeds, rinsed and dried
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil.
Stir together pumpkin seeds with olive oil. Add remaining ingredients. Place on the baking pan in a single layer.
Bake in preheated oven until crispy or about 45 minutes.
Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN Food City Registered Dietitian