Everything You Need To Know About Pumpkin
Nothing screams fall like pumpkin. From pumpkin carvings to pumpkin pie, we embrace the change of the season with its comforting flavour. We are accustomed to seeing giant pumpkins on porches ready for carving, but did you know that smaller sugar pumpkins are better suited for pies and cakes?
There are many different types of pumpkins, and they all have a different purpose.
Mini pumpkins and gourds are beautiful and so indicative of fall, but they’re more for decoration than for eating. New, more decorative varieties that have come onto the market for Halloween in recent years include white “ghost” pumpkins, bumpy pumpkins and “fairy tale” or “Cinderella” pumpkins.
The big, Jack-O’-Lantern sized pumpkins are specifically grown to have a sturdy structure to withstand carving. They have a large hollow centre for candles, and while you can certainly roast and eat those pumpkins, they aren’t as flavourful as other varieties and can be somewhat stringy in texture.
The best eating pumpkins are smaller, and are known as pumpkin pie pumpkins or sugar pie pumpkins. These are small to medium in size and they have a lovely orange flesh that is sweet and perfect to eat.
How to Select and Store Pumpkin
Find a pumpkin that is free of any blemishes or bruises. Larger pumpkins intended for decoration and Halloween can be eaten, but are less flavourful and can have a stringier texture than the smaller varieties that are intended for consumption.
Look for even-coloured pumpkins: a uniform colouring is an indication that it is fully mature. Make sure they are hard and firm, free of any soft spots or cracks. Use a fingernail to poke either the top by the stem, or on the bottom to test how firm it is. It should not dent or scratch.
If you plan on keeping them for as long as a month, gently clean the surface of the pumpkin with hot water and a clean cloth, then promptly wipe them completely dry.
Pumpkins typically store well for up to 2 to 3 months, if you keep them at a cool temperature, between 10 and 12ºC. The garage is a perfect place to store them – but do not store them on the cold, concrete floor. Keep them away from fruits that release ripening ethylene gas like apples or pears.
You can freeze cooked pumpkin (or purée,) but canning raw pumpkin is not recommended.
Photo credit: Julie Van Rosendaal of DinnerwithJulie.com
How to Prepare Pumpkin
There are many methods to cook pumpkin, but first they must be deseeded and de-stringed.
You can cut off the stem end and scoop out the insides, or half them for easier access. Save the seeds to roast or even to plant in your own garden, but discard the stringy membrane in the hollow.
Halved pumpkins are easier for roasting, but whole pumpkins with the tops cut off are great for microwaving as a bowl for soup.
To Roast for a purée: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cut pumpkins in half, scoop out seeds and stringy membrane and place them cut-side down on a lined baking sheet. Roast for about 90 minutes, until they give way easily when poked with a fork. Remove from oven and let cool, then scoop out the flesh and mash or purée until smooth.
To Roast for eating: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out seeds and stringy membrane. Peel the skin with a sharp knife and cut into even cubes. Drizzle some olive oil on top with your choice of seasoning. Try some brown sugar and cinnamon to coat or something spicy like chili or Cajun spice. Bake for about 20 minutes, flip the chunks and then bake again until fork tender. Serve as a side for dinner or incorporate into a recipe, like soup or risottos.
To Microwave: Cut the pumpkin in half. Remove seeds and stringy membrane. Peel the skin with a sharp knife and cut into even cubes. Place in a glass or microwave-safe dish with 1 cup of water and cover with microwave-safe wrap. Cook on HIGH until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Scoop the flesh from the skin and mash or purée until smooth.
To Boil: Cut the pumpkin in half. Remove seeds and stringy membrane. Peel the skin with a sharp knife and cut into even cubes. Place cubes in a pot and cover with water. Boil until fork-tender. Drain, and mash or purée until smooth.
When you prepare pumpkin purée at home, the result may be a little thinner than the canned variety. If this is the case, strain your home made pumpkin purée through cheesecloth or a mesh sieve. It will likely strain out 1 cup of liquid, and then it will be of a similar consistency to the store bought canned version.
- For the ultimate pumpkin purée – make it yourself. Use it at once to bake a batch of pumpkin pies. You can enjoy one now and freeze the rest for a fall treat anytime of the year.
- Do you have leftover pumpkin purée? Use it as an egg or oil replacement in almost any cake recipe. Switch out ¼ cup of purée for each egg or an equal amount of purée instead of oil. This will add a delicious pumpkin flavour and a moist crumb to your cake.
- You can freeze pumpkin purée, but canning puréed pumpkin is not recommended.
- Smaller sugar pie pumpkins are best suited for eating. Reserve the large pumpkins with hollow centres for carving.
What Does Pumpkin Go Well With?
Sweet: dark and white chocolate, maple syrup, cranberries, honey, and brown sugar
Spices: nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, chilies, Cajun spice, cayenne, pepper, and vanilla
Dairy: cream cheese, cream, milk, butter, whipped cream, browned butter, and vanilla ice cream
Savoury: almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, rice, and oats
- Make your own pumpkin purée for all your favourite pumpkin baked goods. Substitute one 425g can of purée for 1¾ cups of homemade pumpkin purée.
- Pumpkin spice isn’t just for coffee – it’s ideally for pumpkin pie! Try this traditional recipe, perfect for Thanksgiving and other seasonal celebrations.
- Try making pumpkin muffins for a “on the go” fall breakfast to accompany your pumpkin spice lattes.
- Make pumpkin waffles for breakfast as you watch the leaves change and flutter from the trees in your backyard.
- Pumpkin is often baked in sweets but why not enjoy it in a savoury dish? Whip up a quick and comforting dinner with this roasted pumpkin soup, with a side of pumpkin challah for dunking.
- Go all out and make this stunning stuffed pumpkin for dinner.
- Looking for an easy dinner or appetizer? Roasted pumpkin pizza combines the flavours of pumpkin and Brussels sprouts with bacon, caramelized onions, apples, and balsamic glaze. It’s going to become one of your favourites!
According to the Canadian Nutrient File, per 100 g of boiled and drained pumpkin, there is 8% of your daily-recommended intake of vitamin C, 7% of potassium, 4% of folate, 4% of fibre and only 20 calories!