Pumpkins are one of my favorite signs of fall and Halloween.
The traditional orange color is the most popular, with white, green, red and even pink and blue shades in markets and grocery stores. While mostly used for decoration, pumpkins are a type of squash, and all parts except the stem are edible, including the skin, flesh, guts and seeds.
The skin is the outside layer and is usually tough and bitter on larger pumpkins but on smaller varieties can be quite delicious. The flesh, also called the meat or pulp attached to the skin, is full of beneficial nutrients and primarily used to make pumpkin puree. The stringy, slimy stuff in the middle is called the guts and are attached to the seeds.
The flesh and seeds are the most popular parts to cook and eat. Pumpkin flesh is rich in a powerful antioxidant called beta-carotene with numerous health benefits for eyes, skin and the heart. The seeds are high in healthy fat as well as fiber and two important minerals: zinc and magnesium. The skin and guts can also be eaten, although they are less popular, unless you’re feeling more adventurous.
There are typically two kinds of pumpkins: carving pumpkins and sweet pie pumpkins. Carving pumpkins are usually large with less flesh and skin to cut through, and the Jack Lantern variety is the most popular. The sweet pie pumpkins are smaller and meant for cooking and eating and include Sugar Pie, New England Pie and Baby Pam varieties.
This does not mean you can’t eat the flesh of the carving pumpkin, but the sweet pumpkin varieties tend to be sweeter and more tender.
Here are some ideas for cooking and eating each pumpkin part:
Skin – While I have not eaten pumpkin skin, recipes call for a small sweet pumpkin with the skin and flesh cut into pieces and roasted with oil, salt and cinnamon. There are also recipes for pumpkin chips and pumpkin chews for pups.
Flesh – The flesh of pumpkins can be cut into two- to five-inch squares and roasted in the oven until soft, cool and then scrapped off and blended into pumpkin puree for baked goods, soups, hummus and tons of other dishes. Pumpkin flesh is also easy to freeze.
Guts – Instead of throwing this away, it is easy to make pumpkin broth. Separate the seeds and put the guts in a pan, cover with boiling water, let it sit for about 30 minutes, then mash with a fork and strain. This orange colored juice can be used in soups and smoothies.
Another fun idea with the guts it to make pumpkin juice for the kids, a drink made popular as a Harry Potter beverage served in Hogwarts Great Hall. Mix cooled broth with apple or orange juice, a splash of lemon juice, sweeten with honey or maple syrup as needed, add some pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon, mix well and serve over ice.
Seeds – Wash and clean the seeds, then spread them on parchment paper or dish towel to dry (they will stick to paper towels). Mix one cup of seeds in a bowl together with ONE of the following depending on flavors you like:
1 teaspoon sea salt.
Spice It Up:
1 teaspoon taco seasoning.
1 teaspoon ranch seasoning.
1 teaspoon any of the following or blends that sound good: onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, chipotle, curry powder, smoked paprika, turmeric, etc.
½ tablespoon maple syrup and ¼ teaspoon salt.
1 teaspoon cinnamon.
Spread seeds evenly without overlapping on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes or until seeds are golden brown, stirring once halfway through the cooking process. Cool completely before serving.
With flesh, guts and slime on the inside and scary faces carved on the outside, pumpkins are a wonderfully creepy representation of Halloween from the inside out!
For more information on adopting healthier lifestyle changes, contact Kitty Finklea, lifestyle coach, registered dietitian and personal trainer at McLeod Health and Fitness Center, 843-777-3000.
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