Pumpkins are available in all shapes, colors, and sizes, from the miniature to the gigantic sweet sugar pumpkin which can weigh in at as much as 100 pounds. The pumpkin is a member of the gourd family, which also includes muskmelon, watermelon, and squash. Its orange flesh has a mild, sweet flavor which is used in side dishes and in many desserts.
Pumpkin Cooking Tips
• Fall and winter are the harvesting seasons for this tasty fruit of a trailing vine, another good reason why pumpkin is a popular vegetable for Halloween and Thanksgiving.
• Choose smaller pumpkins for eating. Sugar pumpkins are usually labeled by the market for cooking purposes as opposed to those used for decorating or Jack-o'-lanterns.
• Pumpkin seeds, known as pepitas, are often roasted and eaten as snacks. Another by-product, pumpkin seed oil, is normally mixed with other oils for cooking, salad dressings and other uses due to its strong flavor and color.
• Pumpkin seeds can be toasted on a cookie sheet in the oven at a low temperature. Be sure to stir them often and watch for burning. Some prefer to soak the seeds in salt water before toasting.
• Shelled pumpkin seeds can be used as a less expensive alternative to pine nuts in recipes.
• Try cooked mashed pumpkin in cake and muffin recipes for added moisture and texture.
• Higher temperatures cause pumpkin flesh to become stringy. If you end up with a stringy pumpkin, you can beat the pulp with an electric mixer on high speed for ten seconds and then switch to low speed for sixty seconds.
The strings should wrap around the beaters for easy removal.
• Homemade pureed pumpkin for pies is usually much thinner in texture than canned. To alleviate excess moisture, bake rather than steam or boil the pumpkin. Mash and drain through cheesecloth before using in pies.