Pumpkins (Happy Halloween!!)
It's older than you think....
Pumpkins are native to North America and were one of the first plants to be domesticated. Natives began growing them as long as 7,500 BC.
The word pumpkin has no botonical or scientific meaning, and is used interchangeably for most winter or hard-shelled squashes.
A pumpkin by any other name...
Pumpkins originated in northeastern Mexico and southern United States. The word pumpkin comes from the word pepon which is Greek for "large melon". A pepo is a pumpkin fruit, which is actually a berry.
The orange color of pumpkin comes from cartenoid pigments, which are converted to vitamin A in the body. Pumpkins can come in many colors though, including brown, red, green and white.
That's a lot of pie!!
The heaviest pumpkin grown was in Germany. The pumpkin officially weighed in at a whopping 2,624.6 lbs!
More than orange and round...
Pumpkins come in a wide range of colors including green, yellow, red, blue, white and multicolored. They can be round, tall, pear shaped or irregular in shape and can be tiny to massive in size.
Packed with nutrients!
Pumpkin has only 49 calories per cup. It is high in vitamin A, fiber, copper, iron, B vitamins, folate, vitamin E, phosphorus and magnesium and calcium. Pumpkin has no fat or cholesterol and is low in sodium.
Eat the whole plant!
Every part of the pumpkin is nutritious and edible. The flesh can be steamed, baked, mashed, boiled and dried. The seeds can be roasted and eaten whole or ground into flour. The blossoms can be stuffed and fried, added to stews or thinly sliced into salads. The leaves can be chopped and sauted like spinach and kale.
Good for the whole family!
Pumpkin is nutritious for your four legged family too! Steam or bake it and give cooled pieces to your dogs and cats. Steamed and mashed pumpkin is also excellent as baby food!
Selection and Storage
Different types of pumpkins have different uses. Sugar pumpkins have a delicate flesh and higher sugar content that lend themselves well to baking and desserts. Dry and dense varieties are best for soups and stews. Look for pumpkins that are firm and heavy for their size. Look for consistent coloring and skin that is free of soft spots and damage. If the blossom end flexes or gives to gentle pressure, it is not fresh. Select pumpkins that have a solidly attached stem. These will keep longer. Cosmetic blemishes such as warts do not affect taste or texture.
Classic Pumpkin Bread
This is the BEST pumpkin bread I've ever made! It is fantastic warm, cold or however. It freezes beautifully, makes great muffins, and is a wonderful thing to share with friends, co-workers, family or save it for yourself. You just can't go wrong here.
Makes 2 loaves
1 15-oz can pure pumpkin puree
1 cup firm silken tofu
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup water
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp ground ginger
3 cups organic sugar (or coconut, date or monk fruit)
3 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup chopped nuts, optional
Preheat oven to 350°. Coat two 7 X 3 loaf pans with cooking spray and flour, set aside (or line with parchment).
In a blender, combine the pumpkin, tofu, applesauce, water, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Blend until smooth and set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together the sugar and flour. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the flour and stir just to combine. You should not see any white specks of flour. Fold in the nuts and divide the batter between the loaf pans. Bake 50-60 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Freezes really well if tightly wrapped.