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Pumpkin as a delicacy

November 13, 2002|by MEG H. PARTINGTON

megp@herald-mail.com

Carved and aglow or quaintly sitting on a doorstep, pumpkins are a favorite autumn decoration.

Baked, the colorful squash is a versatile delicacy.

In its popular pie form, pumpkin is "one of the most nutritious pies that you can make," says Carolyn Sagle, the sole registered dietitian at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson, W.Va. Using evaporated skim milk, egg whites or synthetic egg products, and sucralose - often marketed as Splenda - instead of sugar, can help pumpkin retain some of its nutritional benefits in such a form.

Sucralose is a derivative of sugar, Sagle explains, and it doesn't break down when heated, so it retains its sweetness in the baking process. It can be substituted for an equal amount of sugar. If a recipe calls for a half cup sugar, use a half cup of sucralose, she says.

Sagle says pumpkin is a great source of vitamin A, which helps promote healthy skin and eyes, hair growth and body tissue repair. It also contains some fiber.

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And that's not all.

Bill Susa, who grows pumpkins in Knoxville, Md., says a cup of fresh pumpkin contains only 50 calories and has no cholesterol or fat.

"It's like a free food," Susa says, meaning most people could eat as much as they wanted without hurting their diets.

There are generally no nutritional differences between canned and fresh pumpkin, though the canned variety may include spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg, Sagle says.

The gigantic gourds are most glamorous, but the smaller ones are best for eating, says Bob Matthews, creator of www.pumpkinnook.com on the Web.

As pumpkins gain size, they get grainy and lose some sweetness, Matthews says.

He says tan pumpkins are the "true pumpkin" and the most delicious, boasting a softer texture, sweeter flavor and darker meat than most pumpkins. They're not found in the produce section of most stores, though. Instead, you'll find them in the canned pumpkin aisle, he says.

Jack-o'-lanterns are the most commonly eaten pumpkins, Matthews says.

"That is a very delicious pumpkin," he says.

Matthews and Susa also sing the praises of miniature pumpkins.

They can be filled with bread stuffing, vanilla pudding, tapioca or gelatin, Matthews says.

Susa, an air traffic controller at Washington Center in Leesburg, Va., recommends baking them with pumpkin pie filling or sweet potato tucked inside.

The small pumpkins also make great soup tureens, says Matthews, who also owns www.gardenersnet.com and www.holidayinsights.com on the Web.

"They make great serving sizes," he says.

Cubes of fresh pumpkin can be added to soups and stews, Matthews says. The squash pieces not only add flavor to such dishes but also soak in the flavors surrounding them, he says.

Sagle says pudding made with milk and fresh or canned pumpkin is also tasty.

Don't be tempted to recycle carved pumpkins in your stomach, Matthews warns.

"Any carved pumpkin, you're not going to eat," he says, because once cut, pumpkins can become a haven for mold or fungus.




From treating burns to 'curing' freckles, pumpkin lore abounds

  • Pumpkins are grown on six of seven continents, with Antarctica being the exception.

  • The self-proclaimed Pumpkin Capital of the World is Morton, Ill., where Libby's has its pumpkin industry and plant.

  • It is believed that pumpkins originated in Central America. Seeds from related plants found in Mexico date back to 5500 B.C.

  • Pumpkins have been used over the years to treat all sorts of ails, including kidney infections, worms, hemorrhoids, ulcers, high blood pressure and snakebites.

  • The Mayan Indians used pumpkin sap to treat burns.

  • Pumpkins were once recommended as a cure for freckles.

  • The fear of turning into a pumpkin has a formidable name: apocolocynposis.



- Sources: www.pumpkinnook.com and Bill Susa, a pumpkin grower from Knoxville, Md.

Pumpkin Fudge

1 cup milk

3 cups sugar

3 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/2 cup pumpkin

Dash of salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

4 tablespoons margarine

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine milk, sugar, corn syrup, pumpkin and salt in large pan. Cook over medium heat until boiling, stirring constantly. When mixture comes to a full boil, reduce heat and simmer until mixture comes to the soft ball stage. Remove from heat. Beat in cinnamon, allspice, margarine and vanilla. Cool, then beat until thick and mixture loses its gloss. Spoon into buttered dish. Cut into squares.

- Recipe from Lucy Napier, Sand Springs, Okla. Posted on www.pumpkinnook.com

Chili, Pumpkin Style

3 pounds lean ground beef

2 cups fresh or canned pumpkin

2 cans red kidney beans

2 medium onions, chopped

3 15-ounce cans cut tomatoes

2 tablespoons chili powder

1/4 teaspoon red pepper, optional

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 bay leaves

1 cup mushrooms, optional

Brown ground beef and drain off excess fat. Put ground beef into large pot. Add remaining ingredients. Cook over low heat for one to two hours.

- Recipe from

www.pumpkinnook.com

Pumpkin Seeds

Seeds of one pumpkin

Salt

Extract seeds from pumpkin. Separate and discard pulp. Thoroughly wash seeds in warm water. Spread seeds onto a cookie sheet.

Sprinkle generously with salt.

Bake in 350-degree oven for approximately 20 minutes.

Check every five minutes and stir, adding more salt as needed.

To see if seeds are done, take a sample out of oven and allow to cool. Taste. If insides are dry, seeds are done. Allow to cool. Serve.

Flavor variations:

Cheesy: Sprinkle with cheesy popcorn seasoning.

Tex-Mex: Mix seeds with powdered taco seasoning. Add red pepper powder for hotter seeds.

Cajun: Mix seeds in a bowl with a packet of Cajun seasoning mix. If you like it really spicy, add hot sauce.

- Recipe from

www.pumpkinnook.com

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