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What you need to know about pumpkins
Pumpkins are as old as America and the variety of pumpkins and squash were part of the native diet for the early farmers. With the arrival of European settlers, the use of pumpkin was introduced in several ways; it was roasted and baked for the flesh and seeds and the blossoms were added to stews. The pumpkins shells were dried and used as bowls so all of pumpkin was used.
The pilgrims learned from the native Indians that pumpkins could be stored in the winter and of course, pumpkins were featured in the Thanksgiving harvest.
According to a history search, the pumpkin also served a valuable purpose for our ancestors in making beer, with fermented persimmons, hops and pumpkin plus maple sugar. Sounds like a good way to get through the winter.
According to "Webmd.com", pumpkins are a great source of vitamin A and fiber plus they are low in calories.
The bright orange color of the pumpkin is a clue that it holds good nutritional value. In addition to vitamin A, it has antioxidant carotenoids, alpha and beta-carotenes plus a good source of vitamin C, K and E and minerals such as potassium and iron. Pumpkins seeds are filled with minerals too.
Favorites on the table
Of course, we all know that pumpkin pie makes it appearance on the Thanksgiving menu but there are so many other ways to use the gourd. Try pumpkin cookies or pumpkin ravioli or pumpkin muffins. And on a cold day, pumpkin soup with chicken and curry is a warm comfort food.
One of my favorite menus is to use a jar of Williams & Sonoma pumpkin curry simmering sauce that makes a delicious meal by just adding a pound of cooked chicken and serving it over rice or butter noodles. Just add a side of salad or greens and you have a quick dinner. See the recipe below.
Picking your own
Check your local farmers markets or find the best pumpkin patch in your area. Make it a family outing so everyone gets to enjoy their own pumpkin selection. This is a great time for taking photos.
Selecting pumpkins that are best for cooking should be about 2 to 5 lbs in weight and heavy for its size. In this case, bigger is not better. Pumpkins that are whole and uncut should be kept in a cool temperature location, under 60 degrees for the best storage conditions.
After you cut the pumpkin and remove the seeds, dry them on a paper towel. Then sprinkle with salt and oil and roast them in a 250 degree oven till for about 45 to 60 minutes (stirring every 15 minutes). Add to recipes or granola for that extra crunch.
Just for fun
The Jack-o-lantern is a traditional symbol of the Halloween celebration. The pumpkin is easy to carve and with some creative artistic efforts can convert the orange gourd to a fun family project. If the kids are too young to handle the carving task and you want a safe way to decorate, try using colored markers or stickers to add a funny face to the table. Take photos of the kids with their finished artwork to use a place holders for the Thanksgiving dinner table.
Pumpkin seeds are useful in many ways. Of course, they can be roasted for a crunchy treat or used in creative art projects or try out your own garden project by planting them for next year's crop. A resourceful school project can be financially successful by growing pumpkins and selling them for a fundraiser. Makes a good lesson in economics and gardening.
Make a place for pumpkin on your table and use it throughout the year in your own recipes. Or take a trip to your local pumpkin patch and find new ways to appreciate the power of the pumpkin.
Pumpkins in the patch
Pumpkin chicken ingredients
- 1 lb uncooked boneless chicken breast
- 1 jar William-Sonoma pumpkin curry sauce
- 1 package wide egg noodles
Pumpkin curry chicken recipe
- Cut 1 pound of uncooked boneless chicken breast into bite size pieces
- place chicken in skillet with 1 Tbsp of virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper (I like to add a small onion) and saute on medium heat till lightly browned
- add 1 jar of simmering sauce to skillet with cooked chicken and cover for 20 minutes on low heat
- boil 1 package of wide egg noodles for 7-8 minutes
- Serve pumpkin chicken over noodles with a side of tossed green salad or dinner rolls