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‘Tis the season for pumpkins

By Tanya Davis | Published Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It is fall, and thoughts turn to pumpkin pie and Halloween jack-o-lanterns. But, can you use a pumpkin for both a jack-o-lantern and for eating?

Young children can enjoy creating jack-o-lanterns by drawing the eyes and mouth on the pumpkin with markers, and the pumpkin is still safe for eating.

Pumpkin pie tastes great this time of year and is also an excellent source of nutrients. The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene. Current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protection against heart disease.

Here are some tips on preparing a pumpkin for making pumpkin pie:

  • Work on a clean surface.
  • Before cutting, wash the outer surface of the pumpkin thoroughly with cool tap water to remove any surface dirt that could be transferred to the inside of the pumpkin during cutting.
  • Remove the stem with a sharp knife then cut it in half.
  • In any case, remove the stem, scoop out the seeds and scrape away all of the stringy mass. A messy job, but it will pay off.
  • The pumpkin should be cooked in one of three ways – boiled, baked or microwaved.

With the boiling/steaming method: Cut the pumpkin into rather large chunks. Rinse in cold water. Place pieces in a large pot with about a cup of water. The water does not need to cover the pumpkin pieces. Cover the pot and boil 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, or steam 10 to 12 minutes. Check for doneness by poking with a fork. Drain the cooked pumpkin in a colander.

With the oven method: Cut pumpkin in half, scraping away stringy mass and seeds. Rinse under cold water. Place pumpkin, cut side down on a large cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for one hour or until fork tender.

With the microwave method: Cut pumpkin in half and place cut side down on a microwave safe plate or tray. Microwave on high for 15 minutes, check for doneness. If necessary, continue cooking in 1-2 minute intervals until fork tender.

Now that we have cooked pumpkin, we’re ready to prepare the puree.

Tanya Davis is a Wise County Extension agent.

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