Carving ghoulish images into pumpkins and bringing them to life with flickering candlelight is one of our favourite Halloween traditions. But carving jack-o’-lanterns for trick-or-treaters isn’t the only way to enjoy pumpkins. They make delicious, affordable and nutritious foods too.
Those big pumpkins may not be as sweet as the smaller “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins,” but you can still use them for muffins, oatmeal, smoothies, lattes, soups, loaves and pies. And of course, the pumpkin seeds make a tasty and healthy treat too.
Pumpkins and pumpkin seeds are an excellent addition to any diet. Dietitian Leslie Beck explains that pumpkins are “a good source of fibre, vitamins A and C, folate, potassium, and phosphorus. Like other orange-coloured vegetables and fruits, pumpkins are very high in the antioxidant beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A.”
This combination means pumpkin purée, whether fresh or from a can aids in controlling cholesterol, promotes healthy vision, helps with weight reduction programs and boosts heart health. Why wouldn’t you save a pumpkin to eat?
But a word of caution — don’t eat your carved jack-o’-lanterns. Within two hours of being carved, pumpkins become a haven for bacteria that makes them no longer safe to eat. The soot that forms on the inside of the pumpkin from burning candles also makes them unsafe to eat. It’s not worth the risk.
Instead, get an extra pumpkin just for eating. Or, decorate your pumpkins with string, gauze, pipe cleaners, markers, felt pieces, nuts and bolts, buttons, duct tape, Mr. Potato Head pieces or other odds and sods you have lying around the house. That way you can decorate and eat your pumpkin too.
Once you have your eating pumpkin, here’s how to roast the seeds and make your own pumpkin purée for all sorts of tasty recipes.
Roasted pumpkin seeds
- As you scoop out your pumpkin, separate the seeds.
- Wash seeds to remove any stringy bits.
- Mix seeds with half a tablespoon of canola oil and a pinch of salt or your favourite seasoning.
- Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes at 190 C (375 F), stirring several times.
- Cool and enjoy.
- Store extras in a tightly sealed container for several weeks.
Homemade pumpkin purée
The following technique works for any pumpkins and other winter squash.
- Wash the outside of the pumpkin.
- Cut in half or in quarters if very large.
- Scoop out seeds and stringy bits.
- Place pumpkin halves on a rimmed cookie sheet with 1/4 inch of water and bake at 180 C (350 F) until tender, about 60-90 minutes.
- Once cooled, scrape out pumpkin flesh.
- Place pumpkin flesh in a strainer and let drain to remove excess liquid.
- Use strained purée right away or freeze for up to one year.
- For use in smoothies, freeze purée in ice cube trays then transfer to freezer bag once frozen. Add a cube to your favourite smoothie recipe for extra nutrients.
Try the following recipes with your well-drained homemade pumpkin purée or substitute with store-bought pumpkin purée.
A creamy pumpkin pure soup.
- 1 tbsp. canola oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1/2 c. chopped green pepper
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 c. sodium-reduced chicken broth
- 2 c pumpkin purée
- 2 c. milk
- 1/4 tsp. thyme
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 tsp. chopped parsley
Heat oil in a heavy pot. Add onion and green pepper. Sauté vegetables until soft but not brown, about 2 minutes. Blend in flour and salt. Add chicken broth, pumpkin purée, milk, thyme, nutmeg and parsley. Cook, stirring constantly until slightly thickened. Serve as is or purée in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender.
Makes: 6 cups
Source: Favourite Family Foods, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Orange Pumpkin Loaf
A moist and delicious loaf topped off with a pepita streusel.
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- 2/3 c. whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. pie spice (mix of cinnamon, nutmeg & ginger)
- 2 tbsp. grated orange zest (zest of 1 orange)
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 c. canola oil
- 1/2 c. granulated sugar
- 1/3 c. brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. orange juice
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 c. pumpkin purée
- 1/4 c. brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp. pie spice
- 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp. butter, melted
- 1/2 c. pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Lightly grease and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan or line with parchment paper. Prepare pepita streusel by combining brown sugar, flour and pie spice. Mix in melted butter and pepitas stirring until well combined. Set aside. Mix all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, pie spice and orange zest in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, orange juice, vanilla extract and pumpkin purée. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients stirring just until moistened. Spoon half the batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with half the pepita streusel. Add remaining batter and top with remaining streusel pressing down lightly. Bake until top is browned and a wooden skewer inserted in centre comes out clean, about 50 to 60 minutes. (If top browns too much before fully baked, lay a piece of aluminum foil on top.) Cool in pan for 15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.
Makes: 1 loaf
Pumpkin Spice Latte
A delicious homemade treat made with real pumpkin purée.
- 1/4 c. pumpkin purée
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. ginger, allspice & nutmeg
- 2 c. milk (I used 1 per cent)
- 1 c. strong brewed coffee (or 2 shots of espresso)
- 2 tbsp. cinnamon whipped cream (optional garnish)
In a small pot, heat pumpkin purée with the sugar and spices until bubbly, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk until well combined. Heat until hot and steamy, but not boiling. Return heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour milk mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove pulp. Pour 1/2 cup of coffee (or espresso) into each cup, top with pumpkin-flavoured milk. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pie spice.
Makes: 2 mugs