The pumpkin

All there is to know about pumpkins.

Centuries ago the pumpkin was known as a “Pepon,” or large melon, and over time slowly evolved into “pumpkin.” Native Americans dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into rugs. They would also roast the pumpkin strips and eat them. Pumpkin pie originated from the colonists who cut the top off of the pumpkin, removed the seeds and filled the pumpkin with milk, spices and honey and baked it in hot ashes.

The history of the Jack-o’-lantern originated from an Irish myth about a man named “Stingy Jack” who became acquainted with the devil. The Irish refer to this ghostly person as “Jack of the Lantern” or “Jack-O- Lantern.”

Pumpkins come in many different varieties with various weights and sizes. Pumpkins are an excellent source of beta-carotene which is converted to Vitamin A in the body. The seeds can be roasted for a crunchy nutritious snack containing fiber and phosphorous. Foods rich in beta-carotene help to reduce the risk of certain cancers and may offer protection against heart disease as well as protection against other diseases.

According to Michigan State University Extension, the most common use for pumpkins is for carving, but if you are using it for cooking, look for a “pie pumpkin” or a “sweet pumpkin.” These are smaller and have a sweeter flesh that is less watery. However, you can still use the Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins for cooking. You can cook your pumpkin by boiling, steaming, baking or microwaving it. Cut it in half and remove the seeds to be roasted. Remove the skin after cooking and puree the cooked pumpkin. It freezes well for up to one year.

Serve cooked pureed pumpkin heated, or use in a variety of soups, puddings, baked goods including pies, cookies, breads and muffins.

How to roast pumpkin seeds:

  1. Clean the seeds. The annoying, butnecessary, task is that you have to meticulously clean the seeds until there are no signs of pumpkin guts. After picking off the strands, give them a good rinse with water in a colander.
  2. Boil for 10 minutes in salt water. Using Elise’s method for inspiration, I added the pumpkin seeds to a medium-sized pot of water along with 1 teaspoon salt. Bring it to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes over low-medium heat. Apparently, this method helps make the pumpkin seeds easier to digest and produces a crispy outer shell during roasting.
  3. Drain the seeds in a colander and dry lightly with a paper towel or tea towel. The seeds will stick to the towel, but just rub them off with your fingers. Don’t worry, they don’t have to be bone dry – just a light pat down.
  4. Spread seeds onto a baking sheet and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  I only use about 1/2-1 teaspoon. Massage oil into seeds and add a generous sprinkle of Herbamare (or fine grain sea salt will do). Try to spread out the seeds as thin as possible with minor overlapping.
  5. Roast seeds at 325 F for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and stir. Roast for another 8-10 minutes (if your oven temp is off, this could vary a lot!). During the last 5 minutes of roasting, remove a few seeds and crack open to make sure the inner seeds are not burning (you don’t want the inner seed brown). Cool a couple and pop them into your mouth to test. They are ready when the shell is crispy and easy to bite through. The inner seed should have only a hint of golden tinge to it. They should not be brown.
  6. EAT! Remove from oven, add a bit more salt and enjoy.

Visit MSU Extension for more information to continue making your lifestyle healthy and vibrant.

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