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Pumpkin: Nutriton, History, Storing, How to Cook

 

pumpkin-miniature-soupby Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D., C.D.E.

PUMPKIN NUTRITION FACTS

One cup of cooked pumpkin is a mere 49 calories and is loaded with potassium for a healthy blood pressure and the antioxidant beta carotene, which may help prevent certain cancers.

Keep this nutritious food healthful by not adding lots of fat and sugar. Most recipes can be adjusted to use skim milk and less butter and sugar. Save more fat and calories by serving a crustless pie.


HOW TO CHOOSE A PUMPKIN TO COOK

For cooking, choose small “pie” or “sweet” pumpkins because their flesh is sweeter and less stringy. Pick one that’s heavy for its size and free of soft spots and blemishes. If the stem is shorter than an inch, leave it in the store or at the farmer’s market. A pumpkin with a low stem will decay quickly.


newsletter-graphic-free2HOW LONG YOU CAN STORE A WHOLE PUMPKIN

Though we think of them as vegetables, pumpkins are really fruits because their seeds are within their flesh. Nonetheless, uncut pumpkins have a long storage life and can be held in a cool, dry place for several months—which made them an ideal food for colonial Americans.


PUMPKIN HISTORY AND TRADITIONAL RECIPES

Contrary to what we might think, “pumpkin pie recipes originated in England, not America,” says culinary historian Andy Smith, editor-in-chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. But the fruit was also a Native American staple and became one for colonists, as well.

In her co-written book Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History, From Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie, Kathleen Curtin, food historian for Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, offers a modern-day version of the first American pumpkin recipe ever published. It’s not a pie; for the colonists, pumpkin was far from just a dessert ingredient.

Check out her recipe and more here.

Last updated and/or approved: March 2010. Bios current as of September 2007. Article first appeared in September/October 2007 former print magazine.


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