How to choose the right pumpkin

Choose the right pumpkin for the job, whether it be carving, decorating or eating.

Whether you grow your own pumpkins, shop for them at the farmers market, roadside stand or supermarket – choose pumpkins that have reached full maturity. 

Fully mature pumpkins have hard, tough rinds. Pass by the ones with sunken or moldy spots, cuts or punctures. Well-attached stems are also important if you want to store your prize pumpkins for later display or use. Then put them in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place. A temperature of 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit is best. If they are not bruised or damaged, they can keep for three to six months.

There are different varieties of pumpkin

  • Jack-O-Lantern or carving pumpkins are usually bred for their larger size and are not eating quality. The varieties used for decorating usually are coarse-grained or have a watery texture and can also taste pretty flat.  
  • Pie pumpkins are best to use for cooking and baking. They are small, sweet, and meatier and have less stringy fiber than carving pumpkins.

How to cook pumpkin

If you have made pumpkin pie out of fresh pumpkin you know it is amazingly delicious and pretty easy to do. A medium five-pound pumpkin will give you about 4½ cups of cooked pumpkin. To cook a pumpkin follow these seven steps;

  1. Rinse the pumpkin well and dry it with a clean towel or with paper towels.
  2. Using a long knife cut the pumpkin in half and then into wedges.
  3. Scoop out the insides and save the seeds for roasting.
  4. Cook the pumpkin wedges in boiling water, steam, a pressure cooker, in the oven or microwave. You will know it is done when it is tender when pierced with a fork.
  5. Peel the pumpkin wedges leaving the soft pulp then mash.
  6. Keep out only what you will use within three to four days. Put the rest of the cooked pumpkin in rigid containers (leaving ½ inch headspace) then label, date and freeze to use later.

Try preserving pumpkin

Freezing pumpkin results in a better product than canning pumpkin. If you decide to can pumpkin do not mash or puree it, but instead, leave it in chunks and pressure can it. It is important to always follow directions carefully when preserving your pumpkin by using research-based recipes such as those found at the National Center for Home Food Preservation and So Easy to Preserve.

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