Thursday, November 30, 2006


Pumpkin: You don’t have to be Cinderella to have it turn into something grand

If your garden was anything like mine this year, it took all about 30 seconds to pick your pumpkin harvest. I am certainly not going to be the next Larry Checkon who holds the 2005 word record for the largest pumpkin, a 1,469-pound monster. While that variety of pumpkin would make the best jack o’ lantern, smaller is best when choosing pumpkins for cooking. The best selection is a sweet pumpkin such as Cinderellas, Sugars or Sonias ranging from 2-7 pounds.

There are plenty of healthy reasons to include pumpkins in your diet, especially to cook with fresh pumpkins. Just like any fresh fruit or vegetable, compared to the canned variety the flavor is at its peak of ripeness. The bright orange color is a dead giveaway that the pumpkin is loaded with beta-carotene, an important antioxidant that performs many important functions in overall health. A diet rich in beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancers, offers protection against heart disease as well as protection against other diseases as well as some degenerative aspects of aging. In addition, pumpkins are high in potassium, high in vitamin A, low in fat and serve up a pretty decent fiber supply. All this plus the taste is remarkable.

Although preparing pumpkins can take some time, it is worth the effort. Canned pumpkins can be used in some recipes, but most recipes that call for canned pumpkin are desserts or sweet in nature. Pumpkin muffins, pancakes and breads are delicious with the adjustment of white flour with whole-wheat flour, being conscious of the added fat and with the addition of nuts and or flax seed for added vitamins, minerals and omega 3 fatty acids.

There are certain ticks to the trade when selecting pumpkins. Select one with 1 to 2 inches of stem left – if the stem is cut down too close to the pumpkin, it will rot faster or may be already decaying. Avoid pumpkins with blemishes and soft spots. They should feel heavy; the shape is unimportant -- a lopsided pumpkin is not necessarily a bad pumpkin. Figure one pound of raw pumpkin is about 1 cup of finished pureed pumpkin.

Now for the work:

One easy way to start cooking with fresh pumpkins is to substitute peeled cubes for potatoes, sweet potatoes or carrots in your favorite recipe, such as soup. Roasting pumpkins make a wonderful side dish to any meal:

As for pumpkin lore, the use of pumpkins for removing freckles and curing snakebites is bogus. But the benefits of antioxidants in our diets are here to stay.

Give fresh pumpkins a try; it will be worth your time.

Sarah Hospod is a registered dietitian in the Food and Nutrition Department at The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Hospod and all of the Healthy Living columnists at

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?