Most Americans think of pumpkins in only
two ways, as David Pumpkin Seeds and as the ever popular pumpkin pie.
Pumpkins are, however, a very versatile vegetable. In the past few
years, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin soup and pumpkin filled ravioli have
made an appearance. Still, the offerings have mostly been the
traditional sweet variety.
Even though they have the outward appearance of winter squash, pumpkins
with giant pumpkin seeds are in the same family as cucumbers and summer
squash. Native North and South Americans grew them long before the
first settlers arrived from Europe and may well have interspersed them
with corn, just the way some small farmers do today.
In any event, they were a popular harvest time vegetable, which, with a
little care, could be stored to last much of the winter. It was just
this quality that may have kept the Pilgrims from dying of hunger that
first winter. The diets may have been monotonous, but it sustained
life. American Indians taught the Europeans on how to grow pumpkin, to
use pumpkins seeds for cooking and also as utensils. The dried shells
were used as bowls and storage containers. And whatever seeds were not
needed for the next year’s crop were roasted and occasionally doled out
as a rare treat.
Today, we see pumpkins displayed from mid September up through
Halloween, a few at a time in the supermarkets, and by the hundreds in
farm stands all across America. You can buy pumpkin seeds including the
giant pumpkin seeds in supermarkets too.
Eating, or sugar pumpkins are not the same as the thick skinned, sturdy
fibrous varieties that are best for carved pumpkin and lighting up,
although theses are certainly edible in a pinch. Sugar pumpkins are
fine textured, quick cooking, sweet squash that lend themselves to all
sorts of preparations, both sweet and savory. Today they range in size
from the tiny little individual serving David Pumpkin Seeds and
Jack-Be-Little to larger 5 to 10 pound Cinderella and New England Sugar
Pies. Sugar pumpkins can be prepared in almost any way that winter
(hard-skinned) squash can, but may contain more water than some of the
more dense squash varieties, which should be taken into consideration
when adding additional liquid to some recipes.
I think most canned vegetables are useful only when fresh or frozen are
not available, but canned pumpkin puree is a very acceptable substitute
for the fresh preparation. If you cannot find sweet sugar pumpkins in y
our market, or are pressed for time, canned pumpkin can be used in any
recipe calling for puree. (A 2-pound wedge of pumpkin makes about 2
cups of pumpkin puree.)
Pumpkin is low in fat and calories and provides large amounts of
beta-carotene, vitamin B and potassium. It is a perfect diet food that
may also have cancer inhibiting properties.