Pumpkin abounds this time of year. They provide the perfect decoration for any doorstep or tablescape, as well as great entertainment for anyone wanting to carve a jack o’ lantern. But, the pumpkin is more than just an appealing decor or a piece for a new carving idea. In honor of this incredible gourd, we would like to share a few facts you might know about the pumpkin, as well as how to prepare and use it in a variety of ways (beyond a pumpkin pie).
Pumpkins (and other gourds and melons, such as squash, zucchini, cantaloupe, etc) grow well in the Llano Estacado region. They don’t grow well in a soggy soil and require a warm soil temperature, so our drier climate works for them. They do require a lot of nutrients, so compost or an organic fertilizer will help them do well.
Here are some other things about pumpkins you might not know:
- Pumpkins are rich in fiber, phytosterols, potassium, Vitamin C, and beta carotene (which is then converted to Vitamin A)
- Pumpkins originated in Central America
- Pumpkins are 90% water
- Native Americans made great use of the pumpkin: roasting long strips of it over a fire to eat, drying strips of it to weave into mats, and using the seeds for food and medicine.
- In colonial times, colonists sliced off pumpkin tops, removed the seeds, and filled the insides with milk, spices, and honey; then they baked it in hot ashes. The result was the first pumpkin pie.
- Like squash blossoms, the flowers of pumpkins are edible.
- The largest pumpkin pie ever made weighed over 350 pounds and used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs, and required six hours to bake.
- More pumpkins are grown in Illinois than in any other state.
Preparing Pumpkin for Use
One of the other qualities that make pumpkin such an incredible gourd is that it is pretty easy to prepare and provides several cups of puree per pumpkin (this will vary on the size).
This article provides a step-by-step guide with photos for how to make your own pumpkin puree. Once you prepare your puree, it will keep frozen for several months. She also shares how to roast pumpkin seeds for a healthy snack.
More Than Pumpkin Pie
Prepared pumpkin puree can be used in a variety of ways. Instead of just making pumpkin pie (although that is delicious!) try one of these recipes:
- Pumpkin Butter
- Savory Pumpkin Spiced Risotto
- Vegan Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Pumpkin Spiced Granola
- Creamy Pumpkin Soup
- Pumpkin Chili Recipe
- Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- Pumpkin and Kale Lasagna
- Pumpkin Soup (inside a pumpkin!)
If you find yourself all pumpkin’ed out and you don’t want to make a pumpkin recipe, consider one of these ways to use your pumpkin (or check out this website):
- Decorate your mantle or table with pumpkins
- Cut off the tops of the pumpkin, scrape out the seeds, and use the pumpkin as a “vase” to hold floral arrangements.
- Hollow out the inside of a pumpkin, and plant annuals or winter crops in the ground. The pumpkin will decompose and provide compost for the plant.
- Pumpkin puree makes a great face or body scrub for a natural skin care
- If you don’t enjoy eating roasted pumpkin seeds, share them with our feathered and furry friends.
- Add your carved pumpkin to the compost pile. If any seeds were left inside, you might find a surprise waiting for you next spring!
What is your favorite way to use pumpkin? We would love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!