Mr. Jack O' Lantern’s sudden demise after Halloween may have inspired investigation by the budding entomologists in your family, but there is plenty more to be done with pumpkins than just turn them into doorstops.
While most Halloween variety pumpkins are edible, their flesh is stringy and not very tasty. Behold the smaller sugar pie pumpkin varieties that provide a sweeter and mellower flesh. These are the preferred pumpkins for baking and cooking.
Pumpkins originated in Central America. Native Americans stripped, flattened and dried their skins and wove them into mats. They would also roast them in open fires and use the seeds for medicine. The pilgrims were inspired by them to fill them with milk, honey, and spices and roast them in hot coals, creating the first pumpkin pie!
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.
How to Cook Sugar Pie Pumpkins
Sugar Pie Pumpkins can be roasted, boiled, or microwaved.
Preparation: Wash the sugar pie pumpkin under cold water.
For roasting: Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Cut pumpkin in half, scrape insides clean of seeds (reserve to make pepitas), rinse in cold water and place face down on a baking sheet. Cook at 350°F for one hour or until tender to the price of a fork .
For microwave: Cut in half, clean, and place face down in microwave. Microwave on high for 15 minutes or until fork tender.
For boiling: Cut in half, clean inside and cut off remaining hard outer rind. Cut the pumpkin flesh into large chunks, rinse in cold water, and then place in a large pot with about a cup of water. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and keep at a simmer for 20-30 minutes until fork tender. (Reserve the liquid for a soup base if desired.)
Sugar pie pumpkin puree for baking or soups: When the flesh is cool enough to handle, scrape the cooked pumpkin flesh out of the rind. Place the cooked pumpkin flesh in a food processor, food mill, or potato ricer, and puree. You can use fresh puree just as you would canned pumpkin for baking or soups. Pumpkin puree freezes well so it can be prepared in advance and used later.
Roasted sugar pie pumpkin seeds or pepitas: Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Wash the reserved pumpkin seeds in cold water and drain in a colander. Lay out paper towels and spread seeds on towels and pat dry. Spread the seeds flat on a large baking sheet. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and mix thoroughly with your fingers until all seeds are coated. Salt generously, mix and shake seeds flat again. Bake for 45–60 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool, then eat and enjoy! For variation, try adding sugar and cinnamon instead of salt. For spicy pepitas, add chili powder with salt.
Heidi Lewis writes about farms, bees, and fruit from her home in Sonoma County, CA. She's been with The FruitGuys since they were FruitKids.