by Pamela Allen, interim director UF/IFAS Extension Okaloosa County
Even thought the weather is still warm, fall is here. Walk into any local grocery store and pumpkins are starting to show up. Pumpkins are a staple for the beginning of the fall season. Locally, you will see many varieties called pie or sugar pumpkins, as well as carving pumpkins.
The variety of pumpkin you select will depend on what you want to do with it. Are you buying to carve a jack-o-lantern or make pumpkin pie? The bigger pumpkins are great for carving, but they’re the worst for cooking as they are stringy and very bland. The best ones for baking and cooking with are sweet, flavorful and have smooth-textured flesh. Varieties you will notice locally will be labeled for “pies” and are more compact in size.
After purchasing a pumpkin, it may be stored for many weeks in a well-ventilated place at room temperature. Once cut, you should store it inside a refrigerator, where it will keep for several days. For longer storage, prepare the pulp and freeze. This is excellent for pies and baked goods you want to make later.
Here are some interesting facts about pumpkins:
- Pumpkins are fruits (they contain seeds) and are members of the cucurbit family, which includes squash and cucumbers.
- Pumpkins are 90 percent water.
- Pumpkins come in all sizes and weights.
- Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A.
- The United States produces more than 1 billion pounds of pumpkins each year.
- Most pumpkins are orange, but come in other colors too, such as yellow, white, green, red, and even tan.
- Most pumpkins weigh about 15-30 pounds.
- Pumpkin seeds can be roasted for a snack.
- It takes four to five months to grow pumpkins.
Select a pumpkin labeled for cooking. Wash it, cut into cooking-size sections and remove seeds. There are several ways to cook the pump. Cook until soft in boiling water, in steam, or in an oven. Remove by scraping the pulp from the rind and mash. Discard the rind or use in your compost pile. To cool, place a pan containing the pumpkin in cold water and stir occasionally. Package in an approved freezer container, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Label, date and place it in the freezer.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Scoop out seeds from the pumpkin. Remove pulp from seeds; rinse and drain well. Rub seeds with a little oil. Spread on cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 to 25 minutes or until brown. Stir often.