Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere
Just like leaf peeping and sipping apple cider, carving and eating pumpkins contribute to the excitement of autumn. Now is the time for a ritualistic pumpkin selection, as farmers’ markets and roadside stands will soon close for the season. Also, visiting a corn maze or pumpkin patch can be a fun, seasonal activity for the family. Some have hayrides and additional activities for kids. Check out a list for Western North Carolina.
Field pumpkins, which are bred for jack-o’-lanterns, tend to be too large and stringy for baking, and not as sweet as baking varieties. In 2017, a pumpkin was grown in North Carolina that weighed 1458.5 pounds, setting a state record. Ask a grower which varieties are best for baking and for carving.
The bright orange color of some varieties reveals they are loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is one of the plant carotenoids that converts to vitamin A in the body. A diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protection against heart disease.
A medium-sized (5-pound) baking pumpkin should yield around 4½ cups of mashed pumpkin.
Here is an easy way to transform an uncooked pumpkin into the puree used in baking and in other recipes:
Pumpkin Puree for Recipes
- Cut the pumpkin in half and discard the stem section and stringy pulp. Save the seeds to dry and roast (see below).
- In a baking dish, place the two halves face down. Add an inch of water to the dish.
- Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for an hour, or until it is tender.
- Once the baked pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh and mash it, or place in food processor to puree.
Refrigerate fresh pumpkin puree for up to three days, or store it in the freezer up to a year.
How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds
For 2 cups of pumpkin seeds, use 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon salt and/or other seasonings.
- Preheat oven to 200°. Lightly spray or grease a large sheet pan with oil.
- Rinse the seeds in a colander under cold running water. The water will loosen the strands and make it easier to pull them off. Pat the seeds dry with a towel.
- Season with salt or any spices you wish. Try pumpkin spice seasoning, taco seasoning, or Worcestershire sauce. Combine the seasonings with the oil in a small bowl. Then drizzle the mix over the dry seeds in a medium-sized bowl and stir to make sure each seed is coated. Spread the seeds evenly in a single layer on your prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 45 minutes, making sure to stir and toss the seeds occasionally.
- Increase the oven temperature to 325° after 45 minutes. Then continue baking until the seeds are lightly browned and dry, about 10 minutes more.