Pumpkin used to be about Halloween Jack o’ lanterns and pie at Thanksgiving. Then no more pumpkin until next autumn. Now it’s everywhere all the time. As a coffee lover, I’m alternately amused and horrified by the pumpkin spice latté craze. Why ruin coffee with an incompatible flavor? Pumpkin spice chai might make sense. Coffee + pumpkin – no.
I do realize I’m fighting a losing battle. Pumpkin spice is everywhere:
- cookies — there are pumpkin spice Oreos!
- ice cream
- snack foods — pumpkin spice Twinkies!
- and random weird choices like pumpkin spice Ramen noodles.
Do you sense a theme here. It’s all about sugar sweetened treats. As if we needed more incentive to eat sweets.
Pumpkin is a vegetable
Pumpkin is a vegetable, related to winter squash. Canned pumpkin is actually made from a special variety of squash — Dickenson –related to butternut squash. If you want to use real pumpkin for your pie, don’t cut up your Jack-o’-lantern! Those big carving pumpkins are not flavorful, plus the flesh is very stringy. Buy a pie pumpkin, cook it, remove the skin and puree the flesh in a food processor.
One-half cup of pureed pumpkin has:
- 25 calories
- 1.4 grams fiber
- 280 mg potassium
- 5600 mcg carotenes (vitamin A)
- 1200 mcg lutein + zeaxanthin
- various B vitamins and other minerals
The standout nutrients are carotenes (vitamin A) and lutein/zeaxanthin, which are important for eye health.
There are lots of ways to enjoy pumpkin that don’t involve mixing it with odd combinations of food and sugar. Here are my 3 favorites:
- Thai Pumpkin Curry. My all-time favorite pumpkin food. The pumpkin in this dish is typically kabocha squash (see photo above). The flesh has a rich flavor and dense, smooth texture, which holds together perfectly in coconut curry sauce. Make it a filling vegetarian dish by adding steamed tofu for protein.
- Pumpkin soup. There are dozens of ways to make pumpkin soup, but you always start with pureed pumpkin, whether from a can or your own homemade puree. I prefer to keep this soup simple so the pumpkin flavor shines through (simple recipe).
- Pumpkin pie. What is Thanksgiving without it? But that’s it until next year. I believe in keeping pumpkin pie as a special occasion food.
Thanksgiving dinner is a special event. The roasted turkey takes center stage on the table, but what if you are hosting vegetarians, or if the whole meal is vegetarian. Last year I wrote about making a stuffed pumpkin for a vegetarian Thanksgiving showpiece entrée. The recipe includes the steps for preparing a fresh pie pumpkin and making a filling.