Pumpkins come in all shapes and sizes. Pumpkins are winter squash and this fall veggie is a member of the gourd family. All pumpkins may be eaten; however there is a big difference among varieties.
There are large pumpkins for carving, strangely shaped and colored pumpkins for decorating and smaller pumpkins for cooking.
Decorative field pumpkins, like those used for jack-o’-lanterns, are grown with color, structural strength, a flat bottom, and a sturdy stem as their main attributes. jack-o’-lantern pumpkins were developed specifically to be oversized and thin-walled, with a huge seed pocket and a relatively small proportion of flesh. The flesh tends to be bland, watery, and fibrous. They can be used as baked tureens for soup.
Culinary pumpkins can be used to make desserts, pickles, preserves, and savory dishes. There are many varieties of culinary pumpkins which are highly prized for their taste and texture. The best pumpkins for baking are smaller pumpkins – typically less than 10 pounds – with firm, dense flesh that isn’t stringy.
Sugar Pumpkins are one of the most common baking pumpkins and are often labeled “pie pumpkins,” since they have an excellent texture and a pleasant sweetness. The Small Sugar pumpkin is also known as the New England Pie, Northern Pie, and Sugar Pie. Other types of pumpkins that are great for cooking include Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, Fairytale and Cinderella pumpkins, all of which have a good consistency and flavor. Like the sugar pumpkins, these pumpkins are also often labeled as “pie pumpkins.”
Culinary pumpkins are very versatile. When preparing, bake, roast, mash, or puree eating pumpkins just like other winter squash.
Choose smooth, deep-orange pumpkins that are heavy for their size, without cracks or soft spots. They may be stored in the pantry for up to one month.
- Pumpkin shells get dull as they age, but the flesh should remain intact and can even get sweeter.
- The Cinderella or Fairy Tale Pumpkin is delicious, though very hard to shell.
- Winter squash can be used as a substitute for cooking pumpkins. Butternut squash, in particular, shows up in a lot of recipes as an alternative.
- Cut off the top and bottom ends, and then use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin. For tougher skin, make a few more passes with the peeler.
- A medium-sized (4-pound) culinary pumpkin should yield around1 to 1½ cups of mashed pumpkin. The puree can be used in any recipes calling for canned pumpkin.
- Pumpkins are chock full of the antioxidant beta-carotene, as evidenced by their orange color. One cup of cooked pumpkin includes nearly 2 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, plus calcium, potassium, iron, Vitamins A, C, and E, plus zinc, all for only 49 calories.
- Roast and eat the seeds of any pumpkin.
Using Fresh Pumpkin
Pies made with fresh pumpkin have a lighter color and a delicate squash like flavor, while those made with concentrated canned pumpkin are thicker and more flavorful, with a darker color. Combine both fresh and canned pumpkin for a pie that tastes fresh and rich with flavor and spices. Don’t be tempted to increase the spices in a fresh puree filling too much to compensate for the delicate flavor. If you’re beginning with a traditional recipe, adding an additional 1/8 teaspoon of each spice will complement the subtleties of the fresh pumpkin without overcoming it.
Are pumpkin dishes on your agenda? Get creative and dazzle your family and guests with pumpkin recipes, including starters, soups, salads, entrees, and desserts. All pumpkin recipes bring out the rich, nutty flavor of fall’s favorite ingredient.And don’t even get me started on how good it is for you.