You may be surprised to learn the culinary potential of the pumpkin goes way beyond a can of pumpkin pie mix. Underused in American cooking, this nutritional powerhouse is revered for its leaves, seeds and roasted flesh in other countries. A member of the gourd family, pumpkins are packed with dietary fiber, potassium and vitamins A, B and C. With so many nutrients and very few calories, it’s no wonder Jack O’ Lantern can’t stop grinning!
Carving pumpkins wasn’t a Halloween tradition until the 20th century, but the fall harvest has traditionally been the season to celebrate the pumpkin. This year, make full use of the pumpkin and put its leaves in pasta sauce or fry the flesh to cook up some pumpkin tempura. The Thai often steam custard inside of a pumpkin, so take a tip from Thailand and use a hallowed out pumpkin as an innovative serving dish.
When cooking with pumpkin, remember that canned pumpkin puree can be a good time-saver if you’re in a hurry. But cooking your own lowers sodium content — and gives your dish a nice roasted flavor. To make your own puree, cut a pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and roast, cut side down, in a 400 degree oven for 50-60 minutes. Remember to save the seeds. Soaking them in water for a few minutes will release any excess pumpkin pulp, then toasting them with a sprinkling of salt and olive oil will ensure a tasty snack. Pumpkin seeds have been used to treat anxiety and 1 gram of the pumpkin seed protein contains more tryptophan than a full glass of milk. Hand them out this Halloween and see the grins of the trick-or-treaters light up like Jack O Lanterns.