Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater


Most of us do not hesitate to go out and choose a real pumpkin for our Halloween jack-o’-lantern, but when it comes to actually cooking this seasonal squash, we tend to forget about the possibilities of using fresh versus canned.

Fresh pumpkin, like all other varieties of winter squash, is abundant in this area and makes for some very fine eating in pies, custards, ice creams, breads, cookies and muffins. It also works well in savory recipes such as soups, salads, pastas and tempura, or pureed or baked as a side with grilled or roasted meats. Pumpkin is also quite nice served raw, either grated into salads or thin sliced and served with raw veggies and your favorite dip.

Pumpkins grow in a wide variety of sizes, some weighing more than 100 pounds. Save the big bruisers for carving contests. For eating purposes, choose medium to small pumpkins that have more tender and succulent flesh. Like any other winter squash – butternut, acorn, golden and Hubbard – the skin should be free from blemishes and the pumpkin or squash heavy for its size. Store whole winter squash at room temperature for as long as a month or keep in a cooler place for as long as three months.

To easily get inside the tough outer shell, place your pumpkin in a large heavy-duty plastic garbage bag, take it outside and drop it on some hard concrete; it’s a fun way for the kids to help with the process. The pumpkin will split open into several pieces. Remove the pumpkin pieces from the bag, scoop out the stringy pulp that surrounds the seeds, and then cut the firmer pulp from the outside pumpkin shell.

Boil, steam, bake or fry the chunks of pumpkin as you would potatoes, or oven roast by placing the pumpkin chunks, skin and all, cut side down on a large baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for about an hour or until the pumpkin pieces are fork tender – about the same consistency as a baked potato. When the squash has cooled slightly, scoop it off the cooked shell. 

For pumpkin puree, mash or process the boiled or steamed chunks in a processor, blender or by hand. Season as directed in your favorite recipe. Cooked pumpkin pulp will keep in your freezer for six to eight months.

In addition to being used as a base for many sweet and savory recipes, pumpkin or winter squash puree may also be served on its own as you would mashed or creamed potatoes. Simply add a little butter to the puree and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pumpkin Recipes:
Heidi’s Orange-scented Pumpkin Tempura
> Toasted Pumpkin Seed