Have you made a trip to the pumpkin patch and started carving your jack-o'-lantern yet? If the answer is no, what are you waiting for? It's pumpkin season!
What, Where and When?
Harvested in September and October, pumpkins are an autumn favorite for Americans. In fact, the United States is one of the top producers of pumpkins in the world. Morton, Ill., is the self-proclaimed "Pumpkin Capital."
A relative of watermelons and cucumbers, pumpkins are a type of squash. They're round or oval in shape with orange or white skin. Inside, you'll find pale orange flesh and seeds that are edible. Some varieties of pumpkins have fun names like "Oz," "Spooktacular," "Autumn Gold" and "Baby Boo."
One cup of cooked pumpkin flesh has about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol. It is loaded with beta-carotene and also contains the antioxidant lutein. Pumpkin seeds, meanwhile, have protein, healthy fats, minerals and a small amount of omega-3 fats.
What To Do With Pumpkins
When you pick up one for Halloween, pick up another to cook. If carving up and cooking a big guy isn't your thing, supermarkets are full of pre-cooked, canned pumpkin this time of year. Just be careful not to confuse it with the highly sweetened canned pumpkin-pie filling. You cook pumpkin like you would any other winter squash -- peel it, slice it and remove the seeds. Then roast, boil or steam the pieces until tender. You can dice the cooked flesh into bite-sized pieces or puree them in a food processor.
Most associate pumpkin's flavor with earthy spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, but also try it with orange, hot sauce or chili powder.
Shopping Tip: Choose pumpkins that are firm, smooth and brightly colored. You can store whole pumpkins in a cool, dry place for up to three months. Once sliced, keep the pieces in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic for five to seven days. Place cooked pumpkin in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for three to six months.
Courtesy Dana Angelo White of Healthy Eats on foodnetwork.com
For more information, visit www.foodnetwork.com . Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.
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