As I drove home yesterday, I admired the color changes of fall. Green leaves are beginning to turn orange and gold. Fall decorations are appearing in windows and doorways. Soon many carved, painted or otherwise decorated pumpkins will welcome visitors to homes.
The same natural colorants, or pigments, that are responsible for the green leaves of summer and orange and gold leaves of fall are found in many fruits and vegetables. Enjoying the
colors of fall is a good reminder to enjoy more dark green, orange and gold fruits and vegetables.
Soon my family will be making its annual autumn trip to a pumpkin patch. Being in the nutrition field, I can’t help but see “food” when I eye all these pumpkins. If I were a jack-o’-lantern, especially a painted one, I’d be grinning, too. I’d be happy I’d escaped being baked, mashed and eaten.
With due regard for jack-o’-lanterns everywhere, I’d like to encourage you to eat a little more pumpkin. Besides tasting good, pumpkin is an excellent source of beta carotene, a pigment that our bodies use to make vitamin A. Vitamin A helps keep skin and tissues healthy, helps our eyes see normally in the dark and works as an antioxidant nutrient that could lower our risk for certain kinds of cancer.
Pumpkin also is a good source of fiber, particularly the “soluble” type that’s good for the heart. Like all fruits and vegetables, pumpkin is low in fat and sodium naturally.
If you’re starting a recipe with a whole pumpkin, use some care. Choose small, heavy pumpkins, which sometimes are sold as “pie” or “sugar” pumpkins. They have more pulp than large pumpkins and are more suitable for carving. Avoid bruising the surface, which could lead to spoilage.
To bake a pumpkin, wash it thoroughly, poke holes in it and bake it at 325 degrees until it’s easily pierced with a knife. Scoop out the pulp, season as desired and serve, or use it to make muffins, pancakes, soup or other recipes.
Pumpkin seeds are fiber-rich snacks, too. To prepare them for eating, remove the pumpkin pulp, wash off the seeds and blot them with a paper towel. Toss them with a little vegetable oil, place them on a baking sheet and bake 10 to 15 minutes at 250 degrees, occasionally stirring. If you like, you can
season them with salt, garlic powder, seasoned salt or other seasonings.
If you have extra pumpkin, you may want to freeze some for later use. To freeze pumpkin, wash, cut into pieces and remove the seeds. Cook in boiling water, then steam or bake in the oven until soft. Cool the pieces and then package them in airtight containers, leaving a one-half inch space at the top of the container to allow for expansion.
Here’s a tasty and easy-to-make recipe to boost your pumpkin consumption. It tastes like pumpkin pie without the crust and without most of the fat.
– 1/2 c. brown sugar
– 1/2 c. white sugar
– 4 eggs
– 1 15-oz. can plain pumpkin
– 1 cup (8 oz.) Carnation evaporated skim milk
– 1/4 tsp. salt
– 1/4 tsp. cloves
– 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
– 1 tsp. cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp. ginger
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the sugars in a bowl. Add eggs one at a time, but beat after each egg is added. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour the mixture into a 9-inch by 13-inch pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Makes 12 servings. Each serving has 110 calories, 2 grams of
fat, 19 grams of carbohydrate and 1 gram of fiber.
Duaine Marxen is the NDSU Extension Agent for Hettinger County. His office is in the county courthouse in Mott.