by Teri Pizza
Don’t let their wicked smiles scare you – pumpkins can be quite an edible treat. Although they’re best known as scary Halloween decorations, some of the sweeter varieties of pumpkin make a few of the finest fall desserts.
Pumpkins to look for
Sugar or Sugar Pie pumpkins are considered the best for baking and cooking since they’re a bit sweeter to the taste than others. You may also want to try small to medium size Jack O’Lantern pumpkins; but stay away from the large ones as they can be extra stringy and coarse. Jack B. Little and Baby Boo miniature pumpkin varieties are tasty but, because they contain small amounts of edible flesh, they are mostly used as bowls to hold other foods, candles or flower arrangements. Whatever variety you choose, be sure to select a pumpkin that is heavy for its size and free of blemishes. Store, uncooked, in a refrigerator for up to three months or in a cool, dry place for about a month.
SIMPLE PUMPKIN PURÉE
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Cut pumpkin in half; scoop out the seeds and pulp. Save the seeds for toasting, if desired).
3. Place halves, cut side down, on a baking sheet and place them in oven for 45 minutes or until tender.
4. Cool slightly. Peel off skin, cut into chunks.
5. Place, a few chunks at a time, in a food processor; pulse until smooth. Add water for a softer puree.
6. Use immediately or freeze in small containers until needed.
Quick Tip: A great way to reduce calories is to substitute a bit of pumpkin purée in breads, muffins and cakes as an alternative to a recipe’s oil and butter ingredients.
Plenty to love – even edible flowers
Pumpkins are full of vitamins, while being low in fat and calories – one cup of purée only contains 80 calories. Plus, all that orange means beta-carotene which helps to protect vision. Pumpkin seeds contain zinc for healthy immune systems and L-tryptophan, a mood booster – so toss back some toasted seeds and get happy! Pumpkin flowers are edible, pretty on the plate and delicious lightly deep-fried! Pumpkins offer so much: delicate flowers, healthy seeds, pumpkin pie filling and of course, the scariest face on the block. Visit your favorite pumpkin patch, farmer’s market, roadside stand, or grocery store and pick up some Sugar, Jack or Baby Boo today!