Savor our Seasons: Pumpkins & Other Winter Squashes

By Liza Drew, Keene State College Dietetic Intern

Flavorful Fact: Do you remember the canned pumpkin shortage a couple years ago? It turns out that Illinois, which grows about 95% of America’s canned pumpkin had too much rain and not enough sun, destroying a year’s worth of pumpkin crops. Pumpkin demand has also increased due to its high content of vitamins and antioxidants such as beta-carotene. Coveted cans of pumpkin were selling for eight dollars online! Why not buy local pumpkins and make home-made pumpkin pie this year?

Pumpkins are definitely the most famous of the winter squashes, perhaps even infamous as Halloween nears. We typically see the common “Jack o’ Lantern” size and shape, but pumpkins come in many varieties, each with their own best uses. This year, I’m growing Long Island Cheese pumpkins. Their squat shape and pale color makes them look kind of like a wheel of cheese, and their creamy texture is perfect for making pumpkin pie.

Reaching into the center of a pumpkin to scoop out the seeds is a messy experience, but fall wouldn’t be complete without crunchy pumpkin seeds toasting in the oven. I like to scoop out the seeds, clean them, toss them in a few drops of oil and lay them on a cookie sheet. I then sprinkle them with spices like chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper and sea salt and then bake them until they turn golden brown. While the seeds are toasting I throw the pumpkin in the oven too, because the flesh is much easier to separate from the skin once it’s been cooked.

Butternut squash makes a great substitution for pumpkin in most recipes, and is often less stringy than pumpkin when making a puree. Butternut squashes are readily available this time of year, but surprisingly are a fairly new creation. A vegetable breeding team at The University of New Hampshire developed them in the 1950s.

Winter squash is delicious in both sweet and savory dishes, I can’t decide which way I like it more. You can try these recipes using any variety of winter squash, though I used pumpkin when making them originally.

Try these Recipes:

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Curried Pumpkin Stew