Pumpkins are not just for carving anymore.

What is a pumpkin, exactly?  Pumpkins belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, which contains over 100 genera and over 700 species.  This bit of information comes from the Missouri Botanical Garden.  Pumpkin is a, get ready for it, fruit.  Pumpkin is not a vegetable.  If you want to really get to know pumpkin, check out Gail Damerow’s book The Perfect Pumpkin.  In her book, she writes, “like other berries, the pumpkin is a simple fruit that develops from a single pistil of the flower and has no stone (like a peach’s) or papery core (like an apple’s.)  Unlike other berries, however, the pumpkin has a hard outer shell.”  This book is also available as an e-book.   Pumpkins in any size belong to the winter squash family.  Winter squash played a very large role on the American frontier early on.  It was valued for the “excellent keeping quality."  In A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash, Lou Seibert Pappas also writes, “they even hollowed pumpkins, stuffed them with apples and maple syrup, and baked them in the coals.”  That was one way to cook a pumpkin.

Tower of multicolored pumpkins.

For more incentive to take the pumpkin from our front porches or decorative displays on our mantel and bring it to the table as more than just pie.  Check out some nutritional information about pumpkin that I hope you find as fascinating as I do.  According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one cup of cooked, boiled, or drained pumpkin without salt contains:

  • 76 g of protein
  • 7 g of dietary fiber
  • 8 mg of calcium
  • 22 mg of magnesium
  • 564 mg of potassium
  • 5 mg of vitamin C
  • 4 mg of iron

With these kinds of nutrients staring at you in that beautiful orange shell, how could you not want to eat that pumpkin?  Pumpkin puree, as well as canned pumpkin, are chock full of these nutrients to promote a healthy diet.  If you are buying canned pumpkin, the only ingredient on the label should be pumpkin.  Canned pumpkin pie mix will have added sugars and syrups.  Canned pumpkin will retain most of its health benefits in the canning process and makes for an ideal substitute when fresh pumpkin is unavailable.  Another interesting tidbit of information about canned pumpkin, or even fresh pumpkin puree, is that you can use it in many baking recipes instead of the oil or butters.  I like to mix some pumpkin in with my yogurt in the morning to help get my day started or as part of my lunch routine.  Smoothies are another great way to incorporate a little more pumpkin into your daily diet.  Now that fall is here, I will use pumpkin in my cakes and in as many cookies as I can.  What a great way to sneak a few more nutrients into one of my favorite desserts.   I hope that you have been inspired to add pumpkin to your diet.             

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