On one of our recent hayrides in Connecticut, I made a discovery: some people don’t know (important!) things about pumpkins! Like how to eat a pumpkin (and you can eat almost all of it!). Here’s the scene:
I held my sugar pumpkin on my lap as we rode in the wagon back to the barn and casually said to my husband, “I need to make a pie out of this!” The man next to me said, “You can eat these?!” He was shocked. His wife said, “I always buy a can of pumpkin. How do you even cook them?”
Now it was MY turn to be shocked! I cook pumpkins into pies, soups, muffins, and cake every fall. I know some people enjoy the ease of picking up a can of pumpkin puree (hey, I’ve done it!), but I figured everyone kinda-probably-sorta knew you could EAT pumpkins. No? Apparently not!
How to eat a pumpkin
Pumpkins are good eating! Containing potassium and Vitamin A, get yourself an extra helping of that pumpkin pie! Or, for healthier dish, try a creamy pumpkin soup, or mashed pumpkin (just like mashed sweet potato or butternut squash!).
More ways to cook and eat pumpkins
Eat the leaves!
Most of the pumpkin is edible. Some cultures eat the leaves – I have not tried this yet, but now I want to grow a pumpkin next year so I can cook the leaves! This article on TheKitchn describes how to destring and cook pumpkin leaves. It sounds a bit like sauteed Swiss chard to me.
Eat the flowers!
I personally used to enjoy a good fried squash flower when my Italian Grandma used to make them. They are like slightly sweet, slightly squishy fried dough! Yummy!
Toast the Seeds!
Oh, how I love a good toasted pumpkin seed. You might be familiar with the green pumpkin seeds you see in the store a lot these days – pepitas? Those are shelled pumpkin seeds, and very yummy. However, you don’t even have to shell them. Simply scoop out that slimy seed stuff from inside the pumpkin, place in a mesh colander and rinse gunk away till you have just seeds. Then, spread in a thin layer on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 225 degrees for… a long time. I had mine going for about two to three hours. Use a spatula to stir about every 15-20 minutes so they toast evenly. They are done when they are crunchy, not chewy. Watch that they don’t brown or burn.
Saute or Puree the Flesh!
Once you’ve scooped out the seeds, scrape the inside of your pumpkin half with a butter knife or small spoon. I like to use a grapefruit spoon, because the shape is perfect for the pumpkin core, and the serated edges really get the stringy pulp out. Next, you can cook the pumpkin one of two ways:
1. Peel and cube the pumpkin and then saute for use in soups, sides, etc. This would be good for a savory dish or if you want a chunkier pumpkin.
2. Don’t peel. Place the pumpkin halves cut side down on a cookie sheet. Pour in a cup of water until you have a layer of water in the sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until the pumpkin flesh is tender. Let cool.
3. Use a spoon to scoop the flesh from the skin. Discard skins. Use the flesh of the pumpkin for baking breads, pies, smoothies. You can even freeze it for later. (For baked goods, let it drain overnight in a colander because pumpkins are 91% water – it will affect the moisture of your baked goods if you use undrained pulp).
Now you know all about how to eat a pumpkin! The boys and I had a lovely time scooping out pumpkins seeds to prepare for this post. I think they were a little taken aback that I’d cut up their pet pumpkins, but they went along gamely enough. Turns out, my oldest thinks pumpkin pulp is disgusting and could hardly make himself touch it. Gee, I thought he liked all things slimy? He told me no, not pumpkins! Who knew!
More facts about pumpkins
Believe it or not, despite there being 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin grown in the United States each year, most people don’t buy pumpkins for eating. Instead, they are mostly used for decorations, carving, and crafts, and people buy the canned variety instead.
A bit of “food for thought!” Apparently, according to Wikipedia, many “commercially canned pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie fillings are usually made from different kinds of winter squash than the pumpkins frequently carved” – can you believe that!?
So for the real thing – pick up a little two or three pound sugar pumpkin and make your own pumpkin recipes this fall!
>>For fun facts about pumpkins, check out my collection – share with your kids this fall!
Do you cook and eat fresh pumpkin in any favorite recipes?